Musical Mentors was founded five years ago as a student-led initiative aiming to encourage more students to continue playing their instruments. It also served as a recruitment program for the Instrumental Music Department at CVHS. Musical Mentors holds weekly sessions where any student from an elementary, middle, or high school in the Capistrano Unified School District is welcome to attend and receive free lessons from CVHS music students. The attending students do not have to have any musical experience–we only ask that they bring their own instrument. At the beginning, the program serviced around 10 students each week, but it now receives a weekly attendance close to 25 students. The students are from all grade levels, but most come from nearby middle schools. They also play many different instruments from both band and orchestra. Similarly, the CVHS mentors represent all grade levels and instruments. Overall, the program benefits both ends; the students are able to develop a relationship with a CVHS student and see all that the high school has to offer, all while receiving free lessons and becoming more passionate about music. Consequently, CVHS mentors are able to gain experience mentoring younger students while also gaining confidence in their own abilities as teachers and as players.
Sessions are held weekly on Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. We do not require students to attend for the entire time, but most students stay for all 90 minutes. During the first hour, students work with their mentors on music from their own school or on general playing abilities. At 5:00 p.m., all the students come together to work on rhythm exercises or to prepare for our annual concert. Despite the lack of traditional training for the lessons, we ensure all the mentors find a system that works best for them when teaching their students. The mentors decide how to warm-up and how to structure the lesson, giving them the chance to develop better management skills. We also work to make sure that students are staying with one mentor throughout the semester or year through careful documentation.
As mentioned above, we hold an annual concert around Musical Mentors‚Äô yearly anniversary. This gives parents an opportunity to see what their students have learned and, in the process, it helps students become used to performing in front of an audience. The parents can also watch CVHS chamber groups perform, giving them a look into what the high school‚Äôs program offers.
The program is considered widely successful by our high school. We have seen some students choose to attend CVHS after working in the Musical Mentors program. Musical Mentors was also recently awarded with recognition as a 2019 Silver Award recipient from Advocacy in Actions recruitment and retention category. We hope to see Musical Mentors grow over the coming years as the current students mature and new students join.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
As a school club, we participate in several events throughout the year, planned by the executive board. However, every month we hold a full club meeting to allow the mentors to provide input on the following events.
The first event is typically a bake sale held in September to mark the beginning of the school year in conjunction with the “Back to School Night.” We use this event to raise money for the club as well as advertise the club to parents who may have middle or elementary school students interested in receiving free music lessons through Musical Mentors. In October, we participate in the ‚ÄúSpooktacular Showcase,‚Äù a school-wide STEAM-themed Halloween event. While distributing candy in the spirit of Halloween, we are also able to promote the program, through live performances, announcements in the event program, and flyers ready to be circulated.
In the second semester, CVHS hosts an ‚ÄúArea Concert,‚Äù bringing together the elementary and middle school music programs throughout the district in order to play a concert in the gym alongside the high school students. This is another opportunity that we use to advertise for Musical Mentors by passing out flyers and talking to parents about our program. We hold a second bake sale at CVHS‚Äô 8th Grade Expo, designed to encourage eighth graders to explore CVHS and what we have to offer. With so many prospective CVHS students, we find great success in this event as representatives of both Musical Mentors and the CVHS Instrumental Music program.
And, to close off the year, we hold an annual Musical Mentors concert with the aim to celebrate all the young musicians‚Äô success and progress. Throughout the last few months of the school year, we are able to introduce new music to them–in addition to their own concert set pieces–and encourage them to play a solo, duet, or chamber piece with their friends or mentor. Ultimately showcasing their talent and advancement, the event serves as a toast in celebration to the success of Musical Mentors and young musicians, alike.
Specific Budget Breakdown
What was your total program enrollment during the prior school year?
What is your projected program enrollment for the current school year?
New or recurring project?Recurring
How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?
Attached is the ongoing roster and records for this past school year (2018-2019). We serve between 15 and 25 students each week. In order to increase attendance, weekly communication is made with parents and music directors throughout the district. We also connect with individual parents who come in touch with us by social media or by word of mouth. The adaptability and ingenuity of the program are instigating real changes within the school district. These qualities are what differentiate Musical Mentors from a small school-based project to an area-wide initiative.
Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
As more mentees join the program, there is a possibility that the high school mentor population will be overrun by the need for specific-instrument mentors. We prepare for such a situation by ensuring at least two mentors present for every musical family. We also let the parents know that although it is not required, an email letting us know whether their kid will be attending that week is appreciated. This is usually expected in cases of less common instrument types, such as young piano students, guitarists, and percussionists.
Considering the kids who come to our program are between the ages of 8-14, it can be a challenge to keep them focused throughout the session. We let the mentors know that it is okay to take a quick mental break from music and to keep a fast pace before the kids get distracted. However, a more fool-proof strategy we use is to simply increase the distance between each mentor-mentee group.
With all of this in mind, we constantly look ahead in order to see what more we can do to help. Between the CVHS Instrumental Music Program, Musical Mentors, and all the music programs touched by us, there are endless possibilities of what the future can hold.
Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?
Yet, with the success we have gained so far, we are still constantly looking for places to expand. In this coming school year, we are planning outreach trips to three or four feeder middle schools, where we will coordinate with instructors to host a brief presentation encouraging music pursuit. In addition, we hope to bring the students from the middle schools to CVHS to watch rehearsals or performances. Looking ahead, we have many areas in which to grow, and there are many results already in the making.
Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?
While advertising for students is important, you must also make sure that you have mentors to teach those students. Put up flyers around your music room and ask if your director can send out information about the program. You can also ask your director to offer incentives for the program. Our director allowed students to make-up zeroes from missing class by helping out with Musical Mentors. Also try to ensure that you have mentors from different instruments. We struggled with getting orchestra mentors at first, so we enlisted the help of the lead orchestra student. Working with student music leaders, such as concertmasters, drum majors, and section leaders, is important in spreading the word about the program.
You should try to set up an executive board for the program that consist of a few students who are committed to its success and can lead the program. These students should be able to devote a lot of their time to the project, as they will need to work with local directors, speak with parents, publicize, and train mentors.
Following that, make sure that you are answering all parent questions! If parents are unable to clearly understand what a program is, they are unlikely to send their students. Put one student‚Äôs email/phone number on your flyer, and make sure that you are punctual when answering phone calls and emails. Try to address parent concerns beforehand, as they will likely want to know if there will be an adult supervisor present, where the program will take place, and what students should bring to be prepared. If you can answer these questions before they are asked by putting this information on your flyer, parents will be impressed.