By Eli Scharf
Graphic by Makayla Gilchrist
Every Tuesday at 2:45 p.m., South becomes a space for middle-school and high-school musicians alike. More than three years post-pandemic, the Music Department is still feeling the effects of the changes: musical mentorship between musicians of different ages was lost, along with the growth and community that came with it.
Music teacher Lisa Linde said she still experiences the consequences of this age separation.
“We no longer have that spot for a younger but really serious kid to share space with the older, serious kids and understand what they need to work on,” she said.
These issues, combined with many students’ lack of access to private lessons, inspired students such as senior and orchestra leader June Kim to create accessible mentorship groups for middle school students. It allows them to come to South once a week to be tutored in jazz or orchestra music.
“We wanted to provide a free resource for students to come by and enhance their skills and techniques or just play music with their friends,” Kim said.
Music teacher Benjamin Youngman said that for many middle school students, having a high school musician to look up to motivates them to continue playing their instrument.
“When middle schoolers see the high schoolers playing so well, it inspires them. [They think,] ‘oh, I can be as good as [one of them],’” he said.
Senior Jared Wang, one of the leaders of the jazz mentorship group, said he is passionate about teaching the genre of music that has been so important to him throughout high school.
“Jazz is one of the single most influential art forms to American culture because a vast majority of American music is derived from jazz,” he said. “That’s really important to understand our identity as a country.”
Similarly, senior Nate Scharf, another leader, said the program has helped to foster interest in jazz classes at South.
“It’s been so cool to see that the people who were consistently at jazz mentorship last year are in Jazz Ensemble this year as freshmen,” he said.
One of those freshmen, Adrian Camacho-Diaz, transitioned from being a middle schooler mentee to now being a mentor. Camacho-Diaz first joined the program in eighth grade and said that the direct exposure to jazz incited his interest in it.
“I’m not sure that many middle schoolers are getting much exposure to the genre on their day to day,” he said. “Having something where they can experience [jazz] in the moment by playing it is very cool.”
Even though it is challenging to teach students of different levels, Wang said he enjoys helping students grow as musicians.
“These kids act like they don’t want to solo, but then when you’re like, ‘Go, you have to solo now’, then they’ll play the most amazing thing that you’ve ever heard a middle schooler play,” he said.
Linde said that having her high school students teach music to younger students has given them perspective about what it is like being a teacher.
“They now have a different kind of respect for how hard it is,” she said. “It’s broadened their understanding of what it means to change roles with anyone.”
Senior Hannah Lim, a student leader of the orchestra mentorship program, said she has noticed that students in the program have become close to each other through it.
“We all support each other,” she said. “For new kids, it’s often one of the better places to create friends. It’s a fun environment.”
Camacho-Diaz said the jazz and orchestra mentorship groups have made the South Music Department stronger and strengthened middle school players’ skills.
“There’s a sense of community there,” he said. “It’s really great to feel like you’re a part of something.”