Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: "Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts", by Tim Sharp


Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, Helping Others find their Voice
by ACDA executive director Tim Sharp
(published by GIA, ISBN 978- 57999-835-6, 173 pp., price $21.95).

From the GIA website:
Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, Helping Others Find Their Voice
by Tim Sharp
"Conductors are artists—but they also have a singular responsibility to go beyond the music to nurture the inner voices of their ensemble members.

Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, author Tim Sharp examines the mentor/protégé dynamic and its critical impact on the lives of ensembles and their conductors. Sharp draws from research, his own experience as a choir conductor, mentor, and protégé, and his travels as Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association. The result is a profound portrait of this rarely discussed aspect of a conductor’s life.

Coming full circle,
Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts reinforces a conductor’s own desire to develop his or her own personal learning community to continually strive for excellence by being a protégé to other leaders.

The goal of this book is to help the conductor realize the full potential of the mentor/protégé relationship and to assist both mentor and protégé in achieving the best possible benefits of these relationships. The result will be better music making and more fulfilled human beings for generations to come.”
Tim Sharp

Here are the chapter headings for Tim’s book:

Mentoring Defined
The Renaissance Bottega
Our Early Mentors
The Why of Mentoring
A Personal Word
Our Reason for Being
Framing the Mentoring Environment
The Power of the Mentor
The Conductor-Mentor and the Ensemble Protégé
Are Mentors Born or Built?
Beginning the Mentoring Process and Relationship
The Mentor as Leader
The Ongoing Process of Generativity
The Mentoring Environment
The Ensemble Mentoring Environment
Why Mentor, why Protégé?
Moving to Mentoring
The Imperative of Interconnectedness
Skill Set
The Protégé and the Mentor
What We Learn and What We Do
The Primary Ethical Obligation of Mentors
Guidelines as the Mentor Begins
Lessons from Greatness
Locate Greatness
Mentoring to Greatness
The Continuous Mentor
The Ensemble as Mentor
Life and the Question “Why?” as Mentor
This book fills a void of information and supplies practical guidelines on mentoring within the arts environment. While there are a number of research projects and scholarly books on mentoring, this is the first reader-freindly effort to truly address the mentoring of individuals or even ensembles within the realm of a music rehearsal room, or any other ensemble art situation (dance, acting, etc). The book delineates the informal/formal- passive/active ways that individual mentoring can initiate and often evolve and sets up suggestions as to both purpose and structure of such relationships. One of the strongest features of the book is a guided exercise called a “Thought Experiment” at the end of a number of the chapters. For those people that purchase the book I recommend that you do these experiments fully and not just read through them quickly. They will be of great value as you crystallize your own thoughts and philosophies on the mentoring process.
Here are a few quotes from the book that you should find interesting:
In a chapter about the Italian bottega, or workshop, where people like a young Leonardo da Vinci learned his craft, even including a signed contract between discepolo and maestro, Sharp delineates da Vinci’s progression from discepolo to being the maestro later in life, and says,
We learn from the mature Leonardo, who later in life becomes a mentor, by his constant posing of the question "perche?" Or why?"
And in a later chapter,
“…once he [Leonardo] identified the problem through observations, sketches, and observations, and experimentation, he sought a solution to it. I reference the habits of Lernardo because these are the same habits of the mentor and the protégé. The mentor is consumed by “perche”—“why”- and the protégé is asking the same question.”
In a chapter on generativity Sharp writes,
Generativity is the term coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson  to denote”concern for establishing and guiding the next generation”. …the progress of generativity is the  imparting of proven techniques, skills and life lessons (including the “why” of the profession) from mentor to protégé”. 

And in another chapter with the theme of interconnectedness and the generativity theme, Sharp writes,

It has been my experience that important and significant lessons are more readily “caught” than taught”, and once again, this is where the mentoring process gains credibility. By observing each other, and by staying in proximity to each other, lessons can be discovered, tested, and evaluated. In the best of  mentoring environments, this is the essential flow.”
And in a discussion of mentoring possibilities in the 21st century, Sharp suggests the possibility that:

"...the ideal mentor may emerge as a coalition of peers, including fellow ensemble members, a personal learning network, other supervisors, workplace subordinates, and colleagues of equal rank, all mentoring each other" ...the value of group mentoring is that the activity is reciprocal democratic." 
For anyone already experienced in the mentoring arena, or for those who may wish to become mentor or protégé, this is an invaluable book, for it supplies definitions, formulates questions and answers, and provokes the reader to think along with the author- who all the while conveys his thoughts in clear and persuasive English. For those within the music field, including those who work with ensembles and especially those within the collegiate academic world, this is a must read.

About Tim Sharp (BM, MCM, DMA) is Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the national professional association for choral conductors, educators, scholars, students, and choral music industry representatives in the United States. He represents choral activity in the United States to the International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM). Sharp, himself an active choral conductor, researcher, and writer, has varied his career with executive positions in higher education, recording, and publishing. Prior to his leadership of ACDA, Sharp was Dean of Fine Arts at Rhodes College (Memphis, TN), and earlier, Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University (Nashville, TN). His research and writing focuses pedagogically in conducting and score analysis, and various published essays betray his eclectic interests in regional music history, acoustics, creativity, innovation, and aesthetics. He has conducted university, community, church, and children’s choirs, and continues to serve as a choral conductor and clinician in the United States and internationally. Sharp resides in Edmond, OK, with his wife Jane and daughter Emma.

1 comment:

  1. In our work on Strategic Planning for the American Choral Directors Association, "mentoring" emerged as the #1 concern of our membership, after our interest in choral performance and choral music education. This has so impressed our leadership that we are working on how we can offer a scalable first-step toward connecting mentors with proteges. All input and ideas are very much welcomed as we forge ahead.