Music mentors can make a difference. Whether you are a brand new band director or have been at it for a few years, most of us know that we thrive most on the wisdom of others. Everyone wants to improve and continue to learn, but sometimes you just hit a roadblock. This is where a mentor can really help. Here are a few reasons why I think it’s so vital to have a master teacher in your band hall.
1. A MUSIC MENTOR LEADS THE WAY.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to find the perfect music for your band for contest? Do you notice that your rehearsals or beginning band classes aren’t as effective as you hoped for them to be? Are there times when you just don’t know what to do?
A mentor can guide us to the smoothest path.
There have been many times where I found myself needing guidance. When I was a junior high band director, I made the mistake of selecting a piece that was too difficult for my band. We had spent a lot of time on it and it just wasn’t getting any better. My mentor went to the music store with me and helped find a replacement that was better suited for my group. The piece still offered a challenge, but was teachable and more appropriate for the band. I am forever grateful because it really helped me get back on track.
We can save an enormous amount of time and heartache by simply learning from those who have cleared the path.
2. A MUSIC MENTOR OFFERS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
We can’t see ourselves from an outsider’s perspective.
Having someone else in your band hall can point out areas that need improvement. It’s difficult to ask for help when you know something isn’t going well. This extra set of eyes (and ears!) can really offer some encouragement during times when you need it most. My mentor was able to offer some ensemble setup suggestions that I really hadn’t thought through with my band and also my beginner classes. These simple changes improved my rehearsals and helped the students be more successful.
3. A MUSIC MENTOR ISN’T AFRAID TO ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS.
Mentors have been through every stage and have gained so much wisdom along the way. Do you have that section in your band that won’t focus? Are you concerned about what changes you should make to motivate your students? Is there a student you just don’t know how to help? If your mentor is aware of your goals, he/she will know to ask you the hard questions. They aren’t trying to get on your case or make you feel uncomfortable. They just want to steer you back in the right direction.
It is oddly comforting to be asked hard questions.
One of my mentors asked me after an important performance, “How exactly are YOU going to help your band get through that piece?” I was a little caught off guard with the question, but he was implying that I wasn’t really helping them on the podium. I was too concerned with what was going on in the score and not assisting them with their performance. The answer to this question helped me in so many ways and it really pushed me to improve my conducting skills.
When your mentor asks how things are going, it reminds you that you’re not alone. Music mentors can push you to be the best you can be and that is deeply motivating.
4. A MUSIC MENTOR SEES OUR POTENTIAL.
Mentors believe in you and want to keep you motivated. This encouragement can give you the confidence to do things that you might not otherwise do. It can empower you to take the right actions. A music mentor can help you discover your hidden strengths and encourage you to build on them.
A week before band contest, I made the decision to not allow one of my section leaders to perform. The student chose to have a negative outburst during one of my rehearsals. It was a bold statement that could not have gone overlooked. This decision became easier for me, thanks to the encouragement I received from another band director. He empowered me to teach important values to my students above anything else.
A good mentor believes in you a lot more than you believe in yourself.
Have you ever considered having a mentor?
What is one step you can take today towards finding one?
Now is the time to grow, learn, and be teachers who inspire.
Sarah Loudenback, an active educator and clarinet specialist, has taught band for 7 years and private lessons for 16 years. She currently assists band directors with classes and also teaches woodwind private lessons (beginning, secondary, and college). Sarah enjoys playing duets with her husband (who also plays saxophone, clarinet, and flute) and spending time with her toddler boys and baby girl.
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