I am very fortunate. I have what most people wish they could have much later in their career and in their life in general.
I have a mentor.
If he ever reads this, I can just see him puffing up with pride and self-importance. I think he likes that I associate him with that title. I don’t mind though. Really. He deserves it.
When we met, I was 18 and a freshmen in college. I only knew him as the music theory professor that taught the “hard” theory classes. Everyone cautioned me to stay on top of my work in his class.
They were right. I did have to work a little harder in his class but, since it was challenging in a good way, I enjoyed it. I was also frequently amused and bemused by his random analogies and comments.
When I realized that I wanted to go to graduate school to (hopefully) be a professor, I knew that I would need help. I knew that the scope of the application in terms of quality was beyond me. At the time, this was a big step for me because I didn’t usually ask for help or even know how, and certainly not in such a substantial way.
I did not know him well at the time and he did not know me, but I did suspect that he would know how to help me. I remember a class where he expressed that if anyone wanted to teach in higher ed, he would be able to help. However, I didn’t think I could just walk in and ask for an independent study for a paper to send off to graduate schools. Why would he take me seriously? He didn’t know me.
So I found a way to get my head in his office on a more frequent basis. I started slowly at first. I wanted the relationship to develop organically. Eventually, I told him that I wanted to be an ethnomusicologist and his reaction was heartening. He was excited and thrilled. I was surprised at such a strong reaction but I took it as a good sign.
The next day, the orchestra director had heard about my wish from him and came up to me and expressed her enthusiasm. This reaction was encouraging to me since I admire her immensely.
When I explained to him that I needed a paper for my application, he immediately suggested an independent study. I was pleased. Though I had yet to assign the title of mentor, I was relieved that someone was willing to help me. Little did I know that he would deliver in spades.