The Benefits of Mentoring Youth through Music and Communication

I am a music tutor with nearly ten years experience in working with children aged from ten through to 18. During this time I have worked with a diverse range of personalities, different family backgrounds, varying degrees of ability both natural and acquired, and have seen some remarkable results. To discuss the benefits of mentoring youth with music and communication I will share some of the more salient experences that illustrate the subject.

I started working with a young teenager from a single parent family. Michael was a rebellious, loud and sometimes quite difficult to get on with. He frequently argued openly with his mother, picked on his sister and life was about what I would expect in the circumstances of a difficult separation between the parents. The first steps were tentative but as we started working together with Michael plunking away on a bass guitar it became obvious that he discovered something to keep him interested for life.

My opening approach with all my learners is to tell them I myself am a learner, and have been learning for more than thirty years, and that I expect to still be a learner thirty years from now. I could see this immediately appealed to young Michael who seemed to make a personal decision to do everything he could to impress me in other words: putty in my hands! I soon began to rather shamelessly exploit this advantage with the occasional comment when I noticed him giving his mother or sister a hard time. Before long it seemed I was the male role model in his life and again decided to exploit this advantage over a period of several years.

Michael is now 17yrs old and quite an advanced player. He discovered that through taking on a challenge, seeing tangible results through persistence, consistency and practice he could achieve his goal to play what he wanted. Music seemed to appeal to the rebellious side and he soon began to take on other challenges, such as becoming a junior hockey referee, and forming his own school band.

I currently have two incredibly challenging young teenaged girls who strive hard to outplay each other at all costs. Working with rhythm, lead and bass guitar styles they both rarely miss their tuition sessions. I find myself regularly bombarded with requests for more challenging songs to teach. I recently had one of their mothers asking me to have a talk with her daughter over an issue because the belief was she would listen to me, but not her parents. It is important to recognize the advantage here and not to abuse the trust and privilege of the position I had the talk and yes I was listened to, but why?

I put it down to several things. Firstly, earning the trust and being consistent, after this the rest is fairly easy and it does indeed come down to music. I am selective in what I do teach and while some good old hard rock and roll is always on the agenda for fun, there are recognized limits imposed on lyrics and sometimes even the mode of music. None of my learners are left without my own forms of classical training whether by stealth or more overtly. The difference is in the way music literally communicates and I have discovered children are extremely susceptible to the messages in lyrics, and the messages in melody.

The right environment, careful selection of a wide musical range combined with consistency, quiet but firm encouragement make for significant changes in the lives of all children. My number one rule above all this is have fun’. I have many little tricks up my sleeve to evoke howls of laughter when needed, but that is for another story.