Mentoring in music

Last summer, a collaborative piano grad student contacted me and asked if I’d “talk shop” in return for coffee. After verifying with mutual acquaintances that she wasn’t a crazy person, I met her at Starbucks, and we chatted for well over an hour.

Like me, this pianist had started out in the sciences and veered off into music. I was very impressed that she was proactively networking and cold-emailing local pianists for career advice. Our meeting got me thinking how fortunate I am to have not one, but several mentors who have enabled my musical career.

My mentors have provided me with opportunities, encouragement, and second chances. I think “second chances” may be the most valuable of the three. Having the faith of a mentor — one who expresses, “I believe in you, and I know you can do better” — is incredibly motivating. I know that without some of the second chances I’ve received, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I hope someday I can “pay it forward” and be a mentor to another aspiring pianist. Until I’m influential enough to make a difference, talking shop over coffee will have to do. Email me 🙂

2 thoughts on “Mentoring in music

  1. d*ro says:

    I love the idea of a mentor–especially for those whose careers were affected by the Great Recession and don’t necessarily have the “young exciting fresh grad” status to help them out. How did you find your mentors? How would you recommend finding them?

    • Eileen Huang says:

      I’m not sure one can find a mentor so much as one can nurture relationships that can become mentorships. It’s a safe bet to do your best work for everyone all the time, but ideally, you need to impress the right people while they are watching. As a designer, you may need to seek opportunities to impress other artists, not just your clients.

      My second piece of advice is to recognize when your mentor (or potential mentor) is testing you and rise to the occasion. Each of my mentors has given me a test of my abilities: an impossible piece of music, an unreasonable deadline, or both. As you panic, remember that your mentor wants to see you succeed, not fail.

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