What is music mentoring?

Working with vulnerable students in schools and Education Support Centres, trained peripatetic teachers are able to act as mentors providing musical learning activities and experiences that respond to the pupils’ own musical interests, develop their broad attitudes to learning and offer a safe way to talk about feelings, issues, challenges and choices.

Music Mentoring is a coaching relationship that uses music to build confidence in learning. It’s time bound and involves goal setting, with pupils involved in setting the goals. This gives pupils a chance to personalise their learning, by, as far as possible, giving them a choice in what they learn and how. It’s teaching music for personal and social outcomes: confidence, social connection, freedom, and as a way to talk about feelings. It also has the further effect of changing pupils’ feelings about learning by teaching them how to critically reflect on how they respond to the challenges they face. It can happen one to one, or in groups.

Peripatetic music tutors are often the only regular one-to-one contact a young person has with an adult in school and so they are really well placed to pick up difficulties a student may be having. We’ve found promoting the music mentoring element of instrumental teaching has helped to improve the flow of information about students’ needs between school and peripatetic staff, and has helped schools value our work as an additional way of supporting pupil wellbeing and attainment. When we work in groups it can involve teaching pupils music leadership skills and how to mentor others who may be struggling.

From a practical point of view, it helps manage differentiation and behaviour. Good music mentoring, like good music teaching, is about being able to change our practice to respond to the needs and interests of pupils, and continuing to do this. We develop capacity for this by practising our own critical reflection, in written notes, or with colleagues.

Music mentoring is teaching a skill for life, as it offers young people a way to take care of themselves and others. As part of a recent Hertfordshire Music Service CPD session, we produced this video explaining how music mentoring works, including a case study of our work at Dacorum Education Support Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

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