Benefits of Mentoring with OrKidstra: Observations of U of O StudentsAs part of a three-day event built around the residency of the Simón Bolívar String Quartet co-hosted by The Leading Note Foundation and the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, a half-day session was held at the School of Music, University of Ottawa. The morning was built around three sessions: (i) a master class for University chamber ensembles guided by the Simón Bolívar String Quartet; (ii) student commentary on how mentoring with OrKidstra – the El Sistema-inspired program active in Ottawa – complements music programs offered by the University; and (iii) a roundtable discussion on the question of how best to link El Sistema programs with the university and the community at large. This section describes the feedback provided by the U of O mentors.
Margaret Tobolowska, cellist, music educator, co-founder of The Leading Note Foundation and Artistic Director of its OrKidstra program, introduced three music students – Kim Shields, Meagan McPherson and Yolande Laroche – who had worked with OrKidstra under the U of O Community Service Learning (CSL) program, asking them to comment on how their participation in OrKidstra as mentors and teachers had enhanced their formal music education.
The students made the following observations:
- Participating in a live classroom setting provides immediate feedback on teaching methods; the tips and tactics remain fresh in the mind and increase my understanding of what it is to be a teacher. It also improves my own performance skills;
- In connecting with OrKidstra’s kids, we both teach and learn;
- Connecting with the teachers in a teaching environment provides practical insights that we couldn’t otherwise get;
- Many, if not most, music students will fail to find a position in an orchestra. Teaching is a way to use our skills and knowledge. Those who do find permanent orchestral positions may want to share their skills in proactive ways. Working with OrKidstra prepares you for the real world;
- The El Sistema approach has opened me to a new understanding of the role of music as a social program encouraging interdependence and growth at an early age. I now understand Maestro Abreu’s statement that “spiritual abundance overcomes material scarcity.”
- Working with OrKidstra has provided practical experience working with real kids in the real world. It has given life to the theories I learn in my university classes;
- Receiving credit for this practicum justified our adding it to our class and practice schedules and workload.