by Author Mary Schwarz

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How young people develop greater self-confidence & self-esteem with South West Music School

Supporting young people to develop greater self-confidence and self-esteem means providing a non-competitive environment where young people can feel comfortable about themselves, express themselves and know they are accepted for who they are. This environment, along with the support to make informed choices, can make all the difference to a young person’s sense of self and agency.

This practice write-up comes from an external evaluation of South West Music School, which looked at what SWMS achieves with its students, and how it does so. It is part of a resource collection: How South West Music School supports musical ability.


At SWMS, supporting young people to develop greater self-confidence and self-esteem is achieved through a combination of different elements of the SWMS model:

a)    Mentoring is a key ongoing process through which mentors can support students to bring together all the different sorts of learning they are experiencing so they develop a greater sense of, and assured confidence in, themselves as musicians.

b)    Specialist tuition does not take place in isolation at SWMS. Sometimes, as in Ben E’s case, a tutor is formally a mentor as well and sometimes, as in Josie’s case, a tutor is informally a mentor as well.

c)    Residentials are ‘all round’ experiences that invariably take students out of their comfort zone, but within an environment in which they are supported – and support each other – to develop greater self-confidence and self-esteem as they meet new personal, social, educational and musical development demands.

These ways of working demonstrate the importance of one particular ingredient – Embracing whole child development


Supporting evidence showing how the SWMS model delivers this outcome and ingredient is extracted from the case studies, as below.

a)    Mentoring

BENI (as in Ben & Alfie)

‘Half a friend and half a conscience’ is one way Beni describes Elfyn as a mentor. He’s seen his support as a ‘great conglomeration’ of roles: agony aunt, role model, professional, prompter, composer amongst others. The support he’s offered has contributed to Beni's 'whole-child development'.


Nicola, Theo’s mentor, aims to support him in developing musically and socially without him losing his distinctive creativity, building on the inter-relatedness of personal, social, educational and musical development. 

b)    Specialist tuition


While Karl was Josie’s guitar tutor, he found himself moving into what he calls a ‘musical mentoring’, supporting her through the difficulties she experienced in trying to pursue her music making at school and nurturing the development of her self-esteem and self-confidence. He spent time helping her believe and take pride in her musical talent and manage the praise she was receiving, by understanding the triggers that could make her feel embarrassed about this. This support built on the inter-relatedness of personal, social, educational and musical development.

c)    Residentials


Ben’s parents Maggie and Steven describe how the residentials have helped him develop greater self-confidence and self-esteem. ‘Ben’s found his feet. He’s not so worried, not so inhibited and not so scared of the unknown. He didn’t fit in anywhere else before. Ben likes to be different. At SWMS, particularly at the residential open mic sessions, he can be himself and make the impact he wants to make, showing his creativity.’ 


While Josie felt at times at residentials she had ‘fallen back three steps’, the others provided lots of motivation. The context was never competitive. If someone was struggling, they didn’t have to struggle on their own: everyone was there for each other. Josie felt that people were on the look out to make sure she was okay, in a very supportive way. She was never told she was no good and no one ever made her feel she didn’t deserve to be there. This was a very different experience from school, where in short her talent had not been valued and she was anything but supported.  


As Theo wrote after the July 2011 residential: ‘I have never really done much singing before – so that was a really good thing for me as I gained confidence and enjoyed singing more’. Being taken out of his comfort zone has contributed to Theo’s greater self-confidence.