A Look into the Professional Life of Wesley Ferreira
Students making the decision to pursue a college degree in music are faced with a myriad of choices when it comes to which institution they should attend. There are literally thousands of music schools in North America to choose from. While financial considerations certainly play a large part in the decision making process, other factors should be considered. One of the most important factors to consider when deciding on a music school, is the search for a musical mentor.
Most music students agree that their private instrument instructor fills the role of their musical mentor. In many cases this occurs by default. It is also a unique aspect to the study of music. Admittance into an undergraduate music program requires that all students perform an audition on their principal instrument. For the next several years, students will interact with their instructor in weekly one-on-one lessons. With so much personal attention given to students by private instructors, their influence cannot be understated. At minimum, private instructors are entrusted to help students improve on their principal instrument. I believe that private instructors have the potential to do so much more; guiding students to greater musical understanding and personal growth, acting as a musical mentor.
Business consultant and mentor David Williams defines mentorship well:
A mentor is a person that will guide, support, and encourage their student to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become a success in their own right.
The Importance of Mentors
Mentors are often in a position that you would like to be in, and/or have traveled down a road and experienced what you may soon expect to experience. Good mentors will work with you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and assess strategies to get you closer to your goals. They will provide honest and constructive feedback, help you develop self-awareness, and inspire you to reach beyond your own perceived limitations. In addition, mentors also often have the clout and connections to guide you to your desired position.
I am very fortunate to have had two skilled and inspiring clarinet instructors whom I continue to have a close relationship with. They are my musical mentors; individuals whose opinions and expertise I trust and value.
Note: The job of a mentor is to pass on their knowledge to the student, but it is the student’s responsibility to take action and implement the information that they are being taught. Students must take an active role in the relationship and in their learning and career development, clearly communicating his or her needs and expectations.
Where to Start
In this day and age, students have many resources at their disposal to help in the
search for a musical mentor. Start by visiting the website of the music school that you
are interested in to find the private instrumental instructors for your instrument.
Search online for performers on your instrument that you admire to find out where
they are currently teaching. There are other resources such as journals and
publications for students to explore. For example, the International Clarinet
Association publishes a quarterly magazine (The Clarinet). This is a good resource
to find professionals who are active in the field. Of course, speak to your friends,
parents, and current teachers for advise. Needless to say, this is an important
decision that you are making.
Identify someone that you admire and respect and contact him/her. Ideally, you should
form some type of relationship with this person ahead of your audition date. Try to
schedule a private lesson, if possible. This will help you to determine whether you have
chemistry with this person. You should have a good feel after a few meetings as to whether the rapport is right. Think about the qualities you are looking for in a mentor, and remember, not all private instructors view the act of teaching lessons to students as a mentorship relationship.
What to Look for in a Mentor
Availability – needless to say, your mentor needs to be available for interaction. This may also mean being available beyond your scheduled lesson time, for sessions when you just need to talk. In general, instructors who hold full time positions at Universities are in a better position to make themselves available to you.
Flexibility – good musical mentors are able to teach and guide in a manner that works for you. They strike a healthy balance between adhering to standard practice and adapting to your needs.
Similarities – look for a mentor who has a similar attitude, values, and goals as you do. It can only help your chances of success if you mentor understands you and is familiar with the road that lies ahead.
Character – your mentor should be someone that you respect and admire. They should have personal integrity and be honest with you.
Confidant – a good mentor is someone that you can trust. There are times when you may need to be open and vulnerable with your mentor.
Caring – a mentor needs to care about your success just as much as you do.
Inspiring – a mentor should inspire you to want to reach a higher level.
Positive - your mentor needs to be positive. Your path to success will not always be smooth. It is important to have someone to help you along when you are down.
Challenging – mentors are not afraid to criticize constructively. It is important for private instructors to have you experiment and work on ideas and techniques that are outside of your comfort zone. They should challenge you to think differently, and reach for heights that you did not think were possible. All of this will allow you to grow to become a better person and musician.
Believes in You – a mentor needs to believe in your potential. If they do not, then they may not put all of their effort into the relationship with you.
I was once advised that while finding the right music school is certainly important, finding the right teacher is even more important. The relationship between a music student and their private instructor is a special one. When that relationship becomes a student-mentoring relationship it can be become even more rewarding, by continuing to be fruitful even beyond the formal years of study.
Finding your Musical Mentor
One of the most important factors to consider when deciding on a music school, is the search for a musical mentor. The relationship between a music student and their private instructor is a special one. When that relationship becomes a student-mentoring relationship it can be become even more rewarding.
PRESS ON: Overcoming
As a developing musician, learning to deal with periods of doubt is a necessity. It is important to keep focused on the end goal, and to not allow the day to day difficulties discourage you. I share a quote by Calvin Coolidge that has guided my development, with the hopes that it too may help you along your musical journey.
Fostering a Great Studio
Becoming a member of a studio is one of many defining aspects of studying music within higher education whether within the collegiate or conservatory setting. I discuss my thoughts on how to use peer assisted learning and fostering a culture where students progress as a collective, independent of the teacher.
Copyright 2019 - Wesley Ferreira. All Rights Reserved