Projects | Commissioning Fund | Mentoring Scheme
By Clare Adams, WiM Projects Officer.
Ever felt like you've had to work it out
all by yourself? That the music business is unfriendly, inaccessible
to all but the chosen few? Well then read on because it might
just be possible to make the world a better place!
Mentoring, say the experts, is a powerful
tool for change. Certainly it's a buzz word with a lot of currency
in the arts world at the moment. And the cynics among you might
say that's because it's relatively inexpensive to deliver. Yet
it does seem that, as a tool, it's amazingly effective at empowering
people to take charge of their careers and fulfil their potential.
Typically, mentoring is used to described
a one-to-one relationship is between more a experienced, established
person, and someone less experienced who is a point of change
or transition. The mentor acts as a trusted advisor, sharing
their wisdom and helping the mentee to negotiate significant
personal and/or professional development . It's is a balancing
act: somewhere between coach and counsellor, leading or pushing
only where appropriate, helping the mentee to find their own
answers to life's knotty questions.
Of course, there's nothing new under the
sun. Mentoring is an ancient and entirely natural form of life
support found between apprentice and master, between new recruit
and old hand. What's slightly newer is the use of formalised
schemes in the business and education worlds where mentors and
mentees were matched to support the individual as they needed,
aside from any set curriculum or commercial need. A mentor is
provided in addition to a tutor or line manager as someone who
can be as objective as possible, and without direct interest
in the career path or exam results of the mentee.
Well that's the theory, but how does it
work out in practice? Recently I contacted members of both WiM
and IAWM (International Alliance for Women in Music) to find
out about your experiences of mentoring. Sadly, many of you with
established careers had not ever had a mentor-type figure and
had to go it alone in your chosen field. A general reflection,
perhaps, of trying to establish oneself, a women, as a composer
or academic. There were some cheering exceptions though:
Helen Reddington, now senior lecturer on
pop music at the University of Westminster, emailed me about
the amazing support she received early on: "I was greatly
helped, as a punk rock bass player, by a woman called Frances
(Vi Subversa), who encouraged me, lent equipment, gave gigs and
so on. I know she did this for other people too."
Abbie Conant, solo trombonist, described
how composer Pauline Oliveros had encouraged and supported her
to try her hand at composition, and then direct the resulting
music theatre pieces. She wrote: "I do not identify myself
as a composer so as far as career development the effect was
minimal but the personal and musical rewards great. I developed
a deeper, stronger sense of self and felt a validation of my
Times are changing though. Those of you
who said you had never had a mentor spoke of your efforts to
support your students and of the formal schemes that are now
in place at the institutions in which you work. Singer and composer
Susie Self wrote: "I already do a lot of personal and professional
development work with my singing students, I regard this as important
as the voice work.
And there is now a greater range of opportunities
to support young people as they leave education and start work.
Musician Laura Reid wrote to me in very positive terms about
a business mentor she had received from the Princes Trust. Her
mentor, a woman lawyer, was there to support her as she started
work as a self-employed musician and was able to help with previously
unfamiliar territory such as negotiating contracts, legalities,
accounts, formal letters, and general good business practice.
Reid says: "Now I am self- employed, I am more confident
and take a completely different approach to my career."
And here's where a formal mentoring relationship
can really start to bear fruit. The Prince's Trust scheme is
an example of that ideal whereby the mentor has nothing to lose
or gain related to the success of their mentee, other than their
satisfaction of doing well by the mentee and of having developed
their own coaching and counselling skills. Reid describes her
experience as an "excellent way of being self critical and
maximising potential as you build up a degree of trust with someone
who has no financial interest in your career, therefore very
unique in the competitive music industry."
Also key to the success of the mentoring
relationship is training. Recently, I attended a training day
given by the Arts Marketing Association for both mentors and
mentees on their scheme. Director Pam Henderson took us through
the theory and background of mentoring and then led us in several
role plays that explored good listening, communication and advisory
skills. Just in the short time available, the practice of these
skills created an atmosphere of trust and supportiveness.
The value of training for mentoring has
also been recognised by the Musicians' Union. They have created
Maestro: an online learning resource (which comes with an accreditation
package if you're really keen) to support their members who act
in a mentoring capacity to young people. The material, which
is freely available on the MU web site, covers such aspects as
managing a mentoring relationship, individual learning styles
and resolving differences. Definitely well worth a look if you
are, or would like to be, involved in a mentoring relationship.
And perhaps the final ingredient to a successful
mentoring scheme is a degree of realism. No amount of mentoring
is going to replace the talent, commitment and sheer hard work
you need to succeed in music - male or female. Nor will having
a mentor do much to advance your career if your problem is really
a lack of a decent rehearsal venue. But as Self says: [speaking
of her own experiences] "This has led me to believe that
the level of unconditional personal support that an artist needs
throughout their career cannot be underestimated." And mentoring,
in an informal fortuitous relationship or as part of well managed
scheme, can do just that.
(First published in Women in Music Now,
Summer 2002 edition.)
A good introduction:
Geof Alred, The Mentoring Pocketbook, Management Pocketbooks,
The classic text:
David Clutterbuck, Everyone Needs a Mentor, IPM, 1985
General information and advice:
For guidance on being a mentor:
An arts-perspective overview: