Find a Mentor

For Your Own Good

While a cappella is typically a group endeavor amidst a niche, but large community, For Your Own Good focuses on what individuals can do for their own betterment in this realm.

One common trait to most success stories is that the successful party was willing to ask for help. While some of us may be born with talent, intelligence, and other natural advantages, few of us develop wisdom without a breadth of experience, and without the guiding hand of someone with more experience than us. Mentors coach us, advise us, and speak from their own endeavors so that we have the opportunity to achieve similar success, if not surpass it.

Look within your group. If you’re a first-year college student, is there a senior who seems to have it all together? Don’t hesitate to ask him for tips on how to handle a solo, or how to beatbox, or how he achieves such complex arrangements. More often than not, more experienced voices in a group, or even recent alumni, will be all too eager to impart their wisdom in the interest of maintaining the institutional knowledge and ensuring the group stays vital for years to come.

Look outside your group. If you can’t identify a mentor within your group, think about who you admire from other groups, and for what reasons. If you can’t pick out an individual go right to the top—the director, president, and senior-most members tend to steer group culture both through their leadership of the current roster and their hand in selecting members through the audition process. A fun fact about most student leaders—regardless of how busy they may be, or how cool they may seem, is that they’ll probably still be flattered to be asked for advice by someone who looks up to them. It can be more difficult to develop a lasting mentor relationship with someone from a different school or different region of the country, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting what you can out of such interactions.

Look for role models. If, for whatever reason, you’re struggling to develop an interpersonal relationship to guide you in you’re a cappella career, consider looking more generally for paths you can follow and ideals you can emulate. This may come from within the a cappella genre. Study Jerry Lawson’s mannerisms—how does a man his age still control an audience with such ease? Study the way in which Amy Whitcomb builds a solo—how does she make the most of her explosions? You may also look outside a cappella. Consider how Taylor Swift markets herself, how Barack Obama handles the press. Identify what you want out of a cappella, and figure out who does it best and how. While hearing directly from that person will unveil some hidden gems, studying someone else’s journey and approaches to what their best at will teach you a lot about how you can develop yourself.