Music Mentors get sharp new start over Zoom


Rebecca Von Tersch

Carlmont mentors and elementary school students in the Music Mentors program alike are having their lessons over Zoom. The new zoom classroom will be different from the previous year’s one-on-one sessions, but will still be a part of distance learning.

The Music Mentors program between Carlmont High School and the Belmont-Redwood Shores elementary schools plans to create a new program that encourages ease of learning as a response to the pandemic.

Instead of the same one-on-one lessons used at the end of last year, there will be a new format for mentoring this year, similar to sectionals for the different instruments. 

Alan Sarver, the head of the program, provided an opportunity for the mentors and students to continue participating after shelter-in-place orders began, with one-on-one sessions. Due to COVID-19, the program will use a different system, to hopefully find the same social connections that the in-person sessions had. Sarver is hoping the program will start in mid-November since the mentoring sign-ups are coming to a close. 

“We can set up one Zoom session with breakout rooms every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon and invite everybody to come in and join in that room. And there’ll be one Zoom classroom where we know everybody that’s there,” Sarver said. “As a supervisor, I can go from one room to another and just make sure that everything is going smoothly… We’re able to take attendance and know who’s there and how much time is being put in.”

Before COVID-19, Carlmont mentors went to the elementary schools and taught a group of students in one of the classrooms. This setting allowed for mentors to help the students with the technical and physical aspects of music playing. The new Zoom format will be similar to the program’s in-person classroom settings. It will be more efficient because there is no coordination of transportation, according to Sarver. 

“Instead of wasting just as much time on transportation as we’re spending on mentoring, it’ll be only the mentoring time. By giving exactly 45 minutes of their time every week, each mentor gets a whole mentoring session. They begin and they end right at their computer where they’re doing their regular school work,” Sarver said.

Everyone involved in the program is excited about this year’s mentoring sessions. Most of the mentors are happy to give back to the program they were once part of in elementary school.

“I am excited about music mentoring [this year] because I think it will be very fun and challenging to teach others through Zoom… I was part of the program before both as a mentor and a mentee, and the experience really sparked my interest in music because my teacher was so good at teaching and was very nice and patient,” said Alexander Turtle, a Carlmont sophomore.

Turtle is not the only optimistic mentor. Many mentors are willing to help, even on Zoom.

“I joined because even though my experience as a mentee was good, I want to make it even better for who I might mentor. I believe that you can learn better from someone who plays your instrument,” said Elizabeth Kao, a Carlmont sophomore.

I joined because even though my experience as a mentee was good, I want to make it even better for who I might mentor. I believe that you can learn better from someone who plays your instrument.”

— Elizabeth Kao, Carlmont sophomore

The parents of students who continued with mentoring after the shelter-in-place orders found that their children developed positive bonds with their mentor, despite Zoom challenges. Ramesh Abhari, whose child is in the program, saw this in her child and his mentor.

“We have seen the progress our child has made, and we really like the mentor, how he works with our child… I would say they have a closer connection as opposed to an older teacher and student,” Abhari said. 

Even over Zoom sessions, the students can relate to their mentors, have fun with the sessions, and play their instruments. 

“I’m a big fan of the older kids teaching younger kids and really teaching them with their passion for music. I think it’s so cool… It’s another way for these younger kids to relate to their instrument, seeing a high schooler play it and knowing that a few years from now, they can be just like them,” said Annie Brown, whose child is in the program.

Sarver started the program 15 years ago, creating a welcoming musical learning environment and connections between students and mentors. Many students sign up for the program, and Sarver is hopeful that this year is no exception, even in distance learning.

“I get to go to the schools and listen to the music being made. Listening to young musicians getting better, watching the Carlmont students becoming more and more effective teachers, and watching everybody grow and develop musically… It’s really watching the individual lessons and watching the musicians learn and grow [that I’m fond of],” Sarver said.

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