Music Mentor Program – PART ONE

This is the first in series of posts I am writing on mentoring – how it differs from teaching and how being mentored can be a life-altering experience for the student.

I was most fortunate to have three mentors in my life. Dwike Mitchell for piano, George Russell for composition and his music theory treatise “The Lydian Chromatic Concept,” and Papa Ladji Camara for West African drumming.

My life and music would not be what it is without them and their generosity in accepting me as what is terms a “mentee” or “protege.” They set an example of what it means to be a true mentor. And now I’m passing that on to many of my students.



Unlike standardized, data and test driven institutionalized systems that dominate the 21st century educational mindset, the mentoring process administers a one-on-one committed alliance of study that unfolds organically over extended periods of time. This teacher-student accord energizes the heart as well as the head, propagating a genuine passion for discovery, insight and maturity throughout a lifetime of learning.

“Mentor,” the proper name from Homer’s Odyssey, has become a noun. An individual in receipt of mentorship is referred to as a protégé (male), a protégée (female), student, apprentice, or in recent years, a mentee.

History reveals well-regarded examples of mentorships, including: Socrates and Plato, Haydn and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. Biblical texts refer to Paul and Timothy, Moses and Joshua, Elisha and Elijah, Naomi and Ruth, Mary and Elizabeth.

A sincere, legitimate mentor is an experienced person – ‘a wise and responsible tutor’ – who advises, inspires, challenges, guides, guards, corrects, and serves as pathfinder for those under their wing. They must “walk their talk” by exemplifying the benefits of doing what you do in your life’s work simply because you love doing it. The aim is stir up the gifts so the apprentice’s talent flowers towards the highest level within their capacity.

It is crucial for a mentor to guide a less experienced person with trust and wisdom. This supports a mentee’s character enrichment with balance, positive mentalism and healthy emotional behavior. A mentor must be dependable, engaged, authentic and finely tuned to the multidimensional needs of the protégé.

It is rare for a qualified mentor to find a student who is in the proper state of receptivity to be an industrious and conscientious protege. Similarly, it is quite extraordinary in modern times for a student seeking mentorship to gravitate the best-suited mentor for their path who is able to serve them abundantly in the long run.

(Look for the next installment in this series to be posted soon.)

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