One of the Core Principles of the El Sistema philosophy is that “students often take on teaching roles themselves starting at an early age, and mentoring is a natural activity and a valuable technique for all ages.” Peer mentoring not only benefits the students and the young tutor, but it also helps to strengthen the sense of community inside the “núcleo” or project.
In Harmony Lambeth is starting to see its first cases of peer mentoring. Michael, a violinist who is 9 years old and studies Year 4 at Herbert Morrison Primary School, is tutoring some of the younger children at the South London project. He currently plays the violin with the Holst Orchestra, In Harmony Lambeth's senior string ensemble, and with the Stockwell Children's Orchestra, the project's 110-strong symphony orchestra.
How long have you been playing the violin?
I’ve been playing for about 3 years, when I started coming to In Harmony.
How often do you practice?
I practice a lot at home. Half an hour a day, not every single day. Probably about three days a week.
And how often do you come to the afterschool rehearsals at Wheatsheaf Hall?
I normally come two days a week: on Thursdays and Fridays, to rehearse with the Holst Orchestra. And now I’ve started coming on Tuesdays too, to mentor the Purcell Orchestra.
How do you feel about mentoring other children?
Mentoring other children is really fun, and I get to help a lot of people. I love helping people, and I also get to play with my instrument.
How old are these children?
They are probably about 7 or 8.
So they are not much younger than you… do you get nervous?
I get kind of nervous, like when I have to go out in front of the Purcell Orchestra and there are so many people, and then I have to go around helping.
What do you do exactly?
I go around and if they get stuck I come over to them and I ask them if they need help, and if they say ‘Yes’ I try and help them with the notes and the rhythm.
What do you want to do when you finish school?
When I’m older I want to become a professional violinist, because I love playing my violin.
So you might get to do some work as a music teacher too. Do you think this mentoring experience will be useful later on?
Yes, I’m sure it will.