Music mentors tune in with the younger generation

Every Thursday morning, 28 band and orchestra students walk across La Puente Road to Suzanne Middle School.

Many of them began as musicians through Suzanne’s instrumental music program, but now in high school, they return as Music Mentors, part of a program that connects them with middle school students interested in getting extra support with their instruments.

“It’s really cool to see the high schoolers teaching because that’s something that makes them a better musician. These are the skills that they don’t necessarily get in things other than music,” band and orchestra director Katelyn Takahashi said. “So to see [them] be knowledgeable and kind on their instruments, and to see the middle schoolers be receptive to that, is really cool.”

From 7:15 to 7:55 a.m., each Music Mentor works with a middle school student that plays the same instrument as them. With a flexible curriculum, tutors focus on anything from shifting techniques to preparing for the next playing test.

“I think it’s really fun because it’s like helping the next generation. A couple of our students weren’t as comfortable playing their instruments so it’s fun to watch them improve,” bassist junior Kaden Wang said. “They pick up on things quickly and make really good progress.”

Music Mentors began in the 2010s to maintain a strong relationship with Suzanne’s instrumental music program. Working closely with Ami Garvin and Jeffrey Blackstone, Suzanne’s band and orchestra directors, Takahashi hopes to share resources and help middle schoolers transition into high school.

“A connection can be something that makes a big difference,” band and orchestra director Corey Wicks said. “When you’re coming from middle school, you can be like ‘I don’t know if I want to do [band],’ or that ‘I’m kind of scared to do it,’ but it’s better if you know a face or a name.”

Thursday, Dec. 1, was Music Mentor’s last meeting this semester, although it will resume in the spring. High schoolers shared doughnuts with their mentees to celebrate their progress throughout the program.

“Some of the middle schoolers got the high schoolers gifts for Christmas, so I thought that was really sweet,” Takahashi said. “I think that shows the bond that’s being created and that they really appreciate what the high schoolers are doing.”