January is National Mentoring Month!

At The People’s Music School, mentorship is an integral part of advanced music studies. When students enter the Service, Leadership, Artistry, and Mentorship (SLAM) program, they agree to mentor younger students, leading by example and demonstrating the strong musicianship they have built over the years. 

In October, students in the SLAM String Orchestra had the opportunity to mentor younger TPMS students ahead of the Chicago premiere of Nina Shekhar’s Mad Libs. SLAM Cello student Emily C. remembers being nervous about this day, but ultimately enjoyed her experience getting to mentor younger students. Not only did she get to share her musical insights with them, but she felt she learned from them, as well. 

Read Emily’s story about mentoring at The People’s Music School below.

SLAM Cello student Emily C. performs at 2024 Uptown Academy Winter Concert

During orchestra class, Mr. David announced that in the following class, we would be mentoring some of the younger students at People’s. At that moment, I didn’t think much of it, and we continued with the class as usual. 

The next week arrived quickly, and the time to mentor a younger student was only a few hours away. As I was about to leave my house, my mother reminded me that today was the day our SLAM orchestra would be mentoring in music. As we drove to The People’s Music School, I looked out the window and couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous.

When we finally arrived at the school, I went to my music theory class. I unpacked my cello and sat in my usual spot, glancing at the assembled students on the outer ring of the orchestra, one of whom was my little sister. Mr. David told us what we were going to rehearse that day and then handed out some Mad Libs to fill out and divided us into small groups. I ended up in a group with my stand partner, Marcus, and a 10-year-old student whom we were going to mentor.

Emily demonstrates extended techniques on the cello during the mentorship session in October. 

As we went through the Mad Libs, Mr. David instructed us to make sounds on our instruments that matched the words on our paper. For the frog, our younger student had a great idea to play the 16th notes that cellos often learn, making a sound resembling a frog. Marcus and I thought it was brilliant, so we used it for the Mad Libs. The last one was about a dragon, and I suggested using an extended technique by quickly and forcefully swiping the bow across the C & G strings, creating a roar-like sound.

After completing all 5 Mad Libs, Mr. David gave us a couple of minutes to finish up. Then, he instructed everyone to share their Mad Libs stories while including the sounds we had made for each word. Some groups had amusing words and others had funny sounds. Our group presented third to last, and our presentation went well. Finally, the last group finished, and the mentorship session came to an end.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *