Our music tutor, Tom Eatherton has been with us for over two years now and we asked him to provide an insight and reflection on his first two years as part of the team...
I applied to become a part of the Southend YMCA’s All In Music project as a tutor in May 2017, after being recommended to staff member, Alex Milne as a possible candidate with a view to providing tuition such as guitar, singing and production to name a few. Shortly after getting involved in a group session with a local school as a trial, I was offered the role on a part-time basis, to fit in with the requirements of the project and other tutors. I was at this time providing guitar tuition to a number of schools in the local area, mainly working with five to thirteen year-olds in a one on one fashion. Two years have flown by.
Previous to this, I had had little to no experience in working with such a vast range of young people – some of whom are living within the YMCA’s housing facilities, attending their virtual school or engaging in a number of different projects which the Y provides. Many other applicants are typically referred to us via mental health or social workers. For these reasons, I had very little foresight in terms of what I might encounter. What I did encounter was a great opportunity for myself to pass on my musical knowledge, to share the joy of music with young people, to help them learn their first chords, to sing their first notes or perform in front of their first ever audience. I have had the chance to grow within a fun but professional environment; teaching and mentoring young people of varied ages and backgrounds, learning capacities and attitudes.
Some of the highlights for me have been the live performance opportunities that we provide to our students, providing a worthwhile, meaningful service to the disadvantaged and those struggling with their mental health. Something that I’ve witnessed multiple times now is the way that regular social/musical interaction and engagement can be such a great source of positive creativity and confidence within my pupils. The best part of my week is when a young person leaves the studio smiling and looking forward to the following week’s session.
My advice to a professional in a similar role would be to accept that no one young person is the same as the last. I feel that it’s so important to be open and personable with each new starter and to take the time to invest in the specific ways that they learn, engage and progress as the weeks go by. At times, the job can feel frustrating; especially when I know that a student is more than capable of completing the task at hand or of practising at home to ensure they maintain their interest and skill – but knowing a little bit about their background and getting to know them as a mentor can really help to stay patient, positive towards the situation and creative as a tutor in order to find ways to maintain a student’s focus and curiosity.
Tom Eatherton – All In Music Tutor