The Value of Mentor Authenticity
He shaped a part of my personal philosophy with a passing comment, and I don’t think he even knows.
It happened over 40 years ago but as I look back, Dale Jens’ spontaneous, authentic comment molded my perspective and outlook. Mentors, be authentic; you never know when the one you’re investing in will pick up on something, probably something caught, not taught, and lock it in.
As the proverbial band geek in our high-school I spent a lot of time in the band and choir room during my free periods. I didn’t even need a hall pass my Jr and Sr years; if they saw me in the hall they knew I was either on my way to or from the music wing. Since I was there a lot, “Jens” as we called him, had me listen through and pre-screen the demos that came in for band music. Back then they came on floppy LP’s in a booklet with mini-scores. I’d cut the mini-album out, put it on the turn-table, place a quarter on it to keep it from slipping and make notes as I listened. It was a stereo to die for, by the way, a big one. Back when woofers and tweeters were important. When there were no classes in session, loud was good.
One day I found a really fun pep-band song and listened to it several times, enjoying the mood it evoked. When Jens walked through I motioned him over. “I found one!” and played it for him. Part way through he began to shake his head. Then a little later and obviious “no”. I turned the stereo down. “No sale” he said.
“Really? Why not? It drives, it’s not complicated, it’s…”
“He wrote eight measures, Phil, and he’s trying to get credit for thirty-two. Think about it.
I thought back… It was kinda repetitive. Now that he mentioned it, rather!. I nodded. Got it.
He smiled and turned toward his office, then stopped at the doorway, a warm smile in my direction. “Don’t ever do that, OK?”
I smiled. He disappeared.
It wasn’t a sit down meeting, it didn’t happen while he was teaching me to conduct. An everyday moment became a teaching moment, became a concept I made my own. A silent promise to do better than someone who was actually published when my time came to write or arrange.”
Wrote 8, is trying to get credit for 32.
Don’t ever do that, OK?
From that day to this, I have a low regard for the simplistic when it comes to musical form. He shaped my thinking in that moment. My family knows, my most frequent reason for switching stations or shutting the radio off entirely is that “Here it comes again” thought.
I use that as an example to remind you who mentor – be authentic. You’re investing in your pupil, your protege’ all the time and you never know when a moment in time is going to shape their thinking, perhaps permanently.
Athenticity is super important for those of us who mentor.