And why now is the time to do it
On behalf of SoundGirls, I have been working with Noelle Scaggs from Fitz and the tantrums on her initiative called Diversify The Stage. It aims to bring more people of color, women, and L.G.B.T.Q. individuals into the concert industry through a series of masterclass sessions, mentorships, and internship programs. The middle stage involved placing the students with mentors so I thought I would share some thoughts on having a mentor.
Why do you need a mentor?
So you’re looking to get into the industry but you don’t know where to start, or maybe you have questions about the job(s). These days you can find out a lot of information online for yourself, however, this definitely does not replace having a mentor.
You can type a question into Google such as “how to re-string a guitar” and you will get hundreds of YouTube videos and websites telling you how to do it. You’ll probably become overwhelmed and have more questions than when you started. However, with a mentor, you can have a conversation and ask follow-up questions to your initial question. There is never just one question! There is also never just one answer, but isn’t it best to get an answer from a person who is actually doing the thing you want to do?
How I found my mentor
I wasn’t looking for a mentor, and I have never even said the word mentor to my mentor! He probably doesn’t even realise the role he’s in. The mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t need to be something super specific, you don’t need to have set times to meet each week or month. It’s about having someone you can turn to when you have questions, fears, doubts. Someone who can share your excitement, and hopefully someone who can help you progress in your chosen field.
So how did I find my mentor? I was fortunate enough to get a job in a rehearsal studio in London and during the introductions, I was told one of the staff was a guitar tech for bands on tour. I was immediately in awe as that was exactly what I wanted to do! Luckily for me, we had a lot of common interests (90’s music, fast cars, guitars) so we become good friends. I shared with him that I wanted to do what he did and asked if he could show me some things like re-stringing a guitar “properly” (how a tech would do it), testing amps, building a drum kit, etc. He was so kind to oblige and he even recommended me for my first proper “full time as a freelancer” tour.
It didn’t stop there, I leant on him a lot in that first year because I didn’t know if other tours would come in, I was out there in the freelancer world on my own. He reassured me that there would be more work and to just enjoy the downtime. Sure enough, more work came and I didn’t look back. Years into my career I would still be asking his advice, and still do now. Just last week I was asking him about a Hammond organ! He is a fountain of knowledge to me and this is what drives me to want to give back to those starting out now. We all know more than someone else out there, and there are people who would benefit from that knowledge.
Now is the time to find a mentor
Of course, most touring people are off tour right now. Many have had to turn to other jobs or they are just waiting for the big re-open. Now is the perfect time to reach out to some people you admire in your chosen field. If they’re worth their salt, they won’t mind you reaching out. They’ve been in the place you are, and most would be happy to help. I’m sure it will make them happy to feel like they are contributing something in the touring world right now. Do some research on who does the job you’re looking to do and send them a polite message. You never know, you may end up working with them or in place of them one day.
You can find out more about Diversify The Stage