Teacher, Coach and Mentor: 3 Different Roles in the Landscape of Traditional Arts Education


In the world of music education, there are distinct roles that educators play, each with its unique purpose and approach. Understanding the differences between being a teacher, a coach, and a mentor is crucial for effective guidance and support. In this blog, we’ll delve into the distinctions and the vital contributions each role makes in shaping the learning journey of students. And how we might embrace this understanding when it comes to teaching and learning in the traditional arts. 

The Teacher: Nurturing Knowledge and Skills

The traditional music teacher is the foundation, responsible for passing on essential knowledge and skills related to traditional music. They create structured lessons, typically over extended periods of time, in order to provide a solid foundation for musical growth. 

Teachers ensure comprehensive coverage of traditional music repertoire and techniques. Ultimately, their role is to provide a well-rounded education that encompasses a wide range of topics (not just repertoire!) within the subject area.

The Coach: Guiding Skill Development and Performance

A traditional music or song coach specialises in refining specific skills and enhancing performance abilities. Coaches work closely with musicians, providing targeted feedback and guiding practice sessions. They help individuals or groups work towards achieving specific performance objectives. The coach-musician relationship is characterized by support, motivation, and a shared commitment to musical growth and excellence. Coaches aim to help musicians master specific skills for authentic and impactful performances and to obtain optimal artistic expression. 

The Mentor: Nurturing Holistic Growth and Artistic Identity

A traditional music mentor provides comprehensive guidance, supporting both personal and artistic development. Mentors offer insights, share experiences, and provide advice to foster well-rounded artistic growth. The mentor-mentee relationship often extends beyond formal education, supporting the musician on their lifelong journey. Mentors form deeper, more personal connections with their mentees, offering a comprehensive form of guidance.

Mentors instil values, wisdom, and a growth mindset to empower musicians throughout their artistic endeavours and to support them in their lifelong journey as artists. 

Navigating the Roles

It’s important to recognise that these roles are not rigidly defined. A teacher may incorporate coaching elements, and a mentor may provide guidance in technical aspects. Such overlap can be highly beneficial in a comprehensive musical education. Furthermore, an individual can be a teacher and work with other cohort of students as a coach or mentor, drawing on a different skill set and with different goals in mind. However, in the traditional music world, these terms and labels can sometimes be used indiscriminately, without clearly identifying and understanding what each role means – and how each one can support learners in specific ways, at specific times in their learning journey. Amplifying the nuances of each role empowers traditional music educators to adapt their approach to meet the unique needs of their learners. This adaptability is vital in providing a well-rounded and effective educational experience in the realm of traditional music.

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  1. I just discovered this blog post! (I wish I’d had an email message when it was initially posted 2 weeks ago!) Anyways I love this one. Back of my mind I’ve always had questions about the use of coaching and mentoring, and this is the answer. Great stuff Liz!