Musical Mentors Collaborative is hosting a fundraising concert this Saturday at 4 pm in Lerner C555 in conjunction with Columbia Classical Performers, and “yes, there will be free food.” Bwog caught up with co-presidents Nisha Hollingsworth and Julia Sayles to find out more about the club.
Bwog: So what does Musical Mentors do?
Nisha: We provide weekly one-on-one instrumental and vocal music lessons free of charge to adorable children in grades 2-5 at a nearby public school, P.S. 145. In addition to receiving lessons, our students have the opportunity to attend workshops headed by esteemed performers and Columbia faculty, and to attend concerts around the city at such renowned venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
B: What are your students like?
N: Our students are the brightest, most talented musicians ever. They pick the instruments they play based on their own personal preference, so they work really hard! Our students qualify for MMC by being a part of the Federal Reduced Lunch Program. In taking one-on-one lessons with an MMC instructor, they do more than learn an instrument; they develop close friendships. Our instructors truly are mentors. At the end of each semester, we hold a program-wide recital to commend all of the progress our students have made. Some students play a piece, while others play a few notes. Others just take a bow. Instead of seeking improvement in our students, we seek their own personal satisfaction. We only aim to spread our love of music.
B: Tell us an anecdote about you and your student!
N: This is my third year with my current piano student. She’s come so far since we first started! Initially, she had no musical background. Now, she can read music. We’re both really similar in terms of our personalities and our interests outside of the piano. Before a lesson, we often talk about clothes, glitter nail polish, and pop culture (usually One Direction). I’m currently a senior and I’m graduating this May, so this semester’s recital will be our last one together. We have a tradition of wearing matching outfits to every recital. She usually calls me a few nights before and we decide on an ensemble. Since it’s our final recital, we both decided unanimously that this outfit needed to be the most coordinated and the most stylish. This seemed like a rather daunting challenge. Her brilliant solution: that we go shopping together. Of course, I would never reject an invitation to go shopping. I’m excited to see what she has in mind.
Julia: This is also my third year with my student, but she’s in fifth grade now so she’ll be graduating without me! She wanted to go out with a bang for her last recital, so we decided to do an awesome duet. We started working on Heart and Soul, but quickly decided that was too commonplace. To make it more exciting she learned both parts and we’re going to choreograph a whole routine to go with it. If someone had told me that the shy 3rd grader I had started with would want to put herself out there like that, I would have been shocked.
B: What instruments do the kids learn to play?
N: Whatever our instructors teach! We usually have voice, piano, violin, drums, guitar, clarinet, trumpet, and flute. Sometimes, though, our students have the incredible opportunity to learn something a little different! This year we have talented harmonica and double bass instructors. Their students are learning quickly. The only concern is that the double bass student is having a little trouble managing the size of their instrument—it’s essentially as big as they are!
B: Details about the upcoming concert?
N: This Saturday, April 20th, at 4 pm in Lerner C555, we’ll have a joint concert with CCP, Columbia Classical Performers. It’s technically free, although it’s a fundraising concert, so we ask that you provide a suggested donation so that we can raise funds for the program in order to keep doing the fantastic things that we do. (Yes, there will be free food.) Expect to hear some incredible performances. There are so many talented musicians on this campus! If you are a musician interested in teaching with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Interview edited for brevity and clarity.