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Musical Mentors

Capistrano Valley High School, CA
26301 Via Escolar, Mission Viejo, CA, USA

Project Description

We founded Musical Mentors three years ago, when the leadership team was entirely composed of sophomores. This was a student-led initiative that aimed to encourage more students to continue playing their instruments, while also serving as a recruitment program for the Instrumental Music Department at CVHS. Musical Mentors holds weekly sessions where any student from elementary, middle, or high school in the Capistrano Unified School District is welcome to attend and receive free lessons from CVHS music mentors. The attending students do not have to have any music 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 the band and orchestra. Similarly, the CVHS mentors represent all grade levels and instruments. Overall, the program seems to be beneficial on both ends; the students are able to develop a relationship with a CVHS student, seeing all that CVHS has to offer, 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 4pm to 5:30pm. 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 mentors in groups, ranging from one to three, on music from their own school or on general playing abilities. At 5pm, all the students come together to work on rhythm exercises or to prepare for our annual concert. Despite the lack of formal training for the lessons, we ensure all the mentors find a system that works best for them when teaching their student. The mentors decide how to warm-up and how to structure the lesson. 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’ 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, where they are given a look into what the high school’s program offers.

The program is considered widely successful as a whole by our high school. Although the program is young, 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 an outstanding club/program at CVHS. We hope to see Musical Mentors grow over the coming years as the current students mature and new students join.

Target Audience

Our program is mainly geared towards the local middle and elementary schools who typically “feed” into our high school. Although one of our goals is to encourage kids to join the Capistrano Valley Instrumental Music program, we also welcome anyone with an interest in music, regardless of school. We want to inspire a general love of music in young kids and hope that even if a mentee is not from a feeder school, they will consider applying to CVHS as their “school of choice”. In the long run, our goal is to help grow our music program with those who already share a passion for the music they play and a zeal to learn even more. And, although the program is catered to students at the middle and elementary school level, many already at CVHS find solace in knowing there is a place where they are welcome to improve upon their skill, through peer mentorship

Community Impact

This program has impacted our community in a positive way, not only bringing kids from local schools to Capistrano Valley High School, but also welcoming students from other districts as well. With this program, we believe the mentees are gaining more of an appreciation and knowledge for music, are more motivated to continue playing their instruments, and are striving to better their musical abilities. Both parents and kids alike find use, as well as satisfaction, in our program.

Specific Budget Breakdown

This program was started as a club through our high school, so the funds we raise are to grow the program. We did not start the process with an overall budget in mind, but instead with an idea of sharing music through education and mentorship.

Musical Mentors raises funds solely to strengthen the program. On average, Musical Mentors holds three bake sales per year. Baked goods are donated by high school students, and the proceeds of these fundraisers have been used for program apparel and musicianship method books. The high school mentors contributed to the cost of the t-shirts, which allowed Musical Mentors to guarantee each mentee their own shirt. Being a student club at CVHS, Musical Mentors must make purchase orders and deposits through the Activities Office. For the 2018-19 school year, Musical Mentors aims to make a second order of t-shirts and purchase new method books for orchestra students.

New or recurring project?

Recurring

How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

Musical Mentors was started as a club through our school, and nothing similar preceded it. And, it has impacted our community in a positive way, not only bringing kids from local schools to Capistrano Valley High School, but also welcoming students from other districts as well. Through the program, we believe the mentees are gaining more of an appreciation and knowledge for music, are more motivated to continue playing their instruments, and are striving to better their musical abilities. Both parents and kids alike find use, as well as satisfaction, in attending Musical Mentors.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

We have found that our efforts have come full-circle . We have several members who started as middle school mentees at the program’s inception, and they have now returned, mentoring the kids they once were. We have even found our reach of mentees has grown, where students are bringing friends or making new friends through the program. Not only have we found an increase in attendance, from 10 students in our first session, to 25 and growing today, but also the high school mentor circle is growing. We have representation from orchestra and band, as well as piano players, guitar players, and in percussive areas. In addition, the mentors have begun using more collaborative techniques in finding new ways to engage the students. Walking through a session, one is likely to hear a string duet or a full woodwind quintet playing around in downtime.

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 rehearsal or a performance. 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?

Publicity and outreach are some of the most important factors in ensuring success. Students looking to replicate Musical Mentors should work with their directors to contact local elementary and middle schools and give them flyers to pass out to their students. Emphasize that the program is free and that students can have any level of musical ability. If you can meet with these local directors in person (possibly at a district-wide informational session) that is even better. Directors receive a lot of emails every day, and they will be more responsive through a phone call or in-person conversation. That said, it is also advised to reach out directly to parents. We advertised Musical Mentors at our district-wide “Area Concert,” where students from local elementary, middle, and high schools performed. We handed out flyers to parents and answered all their questions about the program. You can also put up flyers at local coffee shops or have information sent out through school-wide emails.

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, 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’s 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.

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