Nadia Reid: the benefits of mentoring

Nadia Reid. Photo, Ebony Lamb.
The Big Idea is big on mentoring. And so - it turns out - is the folk diva of Dunedin, who takes the time to mentor, and to be mentored. She explains it all to Sam Grover.

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Nadia Reid is a 26 year old singer songwriter based in Dunedin. Her reflective and thoughtful songs draw on ambient harmonies and minor-mood melodies which seduce the listener even as they lay down challenges.  And she's on a roll, with two studio albums to date and a constant schedule of international tour dates.

Right now, she’s filling a gap in her calendar with something a bit different: coordinating the Amped Music Project in Dunedin, a mentoring programme for high school students who are into music. For 7 weeks, they get together every Saturday, collaborate on music and songwriting, and put on all-ages shows.

With this in mind, I caught up with Nadia to get her views on mentoring, being mentored, and its value for an artist.  

What is mentoring anyway?

It's one of those things that people define in a lot of different ways. I think Nadia’s definition was well on-point, though: “It’s about leading by example, and creating a safe relationship where you’re a role model.”

It’s not really about telling someone exactly what to do. Rather, it’s about giving them the confidence and the knowledge to figure out what they want to do - then do it.

Usually, we think of mentors as more experienced people helping less experienced people. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. After all, we all have different experiences, regardless of how experienced we are. The key, to Nadia, is being encouraging and acting as a role model.

I think it would be hugely beneficial to work with someone more experienced.

A non-traditional experience

Nadia’s experience with mentors has been a combination of role models and her peers.

On the role model side, she’s been inspired by heaps of successful women singers and songwriters, like Anika Moa. “I was just encouraged by seeing her on stage, being out there on tour and making records,” said Nadia.

But Nadia’s day-to-day mentoring comes from her peer group - fellow artists, like Hollie Fullbrook,  Ebony Lamb and Tami Neilson, who Nadia finds “incredibly inspiring and encouraging - we all help each other.”

She hasn’t yet been on the younger side of the traditional mentoring relationship, but she’s open to it - “I think it would be hugely beneficial to work with someone more experienced,” she said.

Music is such a special outlet, and it’s a really healthy way to deal with the struggles we face.

From the other side

That’s part of why she’s coordinating the Amped project. For 7 weeks, she’s going to take on the traditional mentor role for a bunch of high schoolers who are producing music. She’ll be building a mentoring system that’s more similar to what she’s used to -  creating a safe space for these students to create music, and encourage each other.

One of the reasons she’s participating in this project is because there’s a real gap in this kind of thing for young musicians. There’s school, of course, but outside of that, there’s not much of a support network or community for younger musicians.

This is a shame, because Nadia believes that being a musician is all about learning by doing - you try things, make mistakes, and sometimes fail. It’s a lot easier to do that when you have a support network of peers and mentors to catch you when you fall. “Music is such a special outlet, and it’s a really healthy way to deal with the struggles we face,” said Nadia. This programme will hopefully make it easier for some students to use music to express themselves creatively, and grow as artists, both from Nadia’s mentorship and by mentoring each other.

Do you truly want to be a musician? Or do you just want to be famous?

Some tips

To close things off, I asked Nadia what her tips are for today’s younger artists. She had just one: don’t stop creating. This is for two reasons.

The first reason is that creating music lets you find out who you are, and what your voice is. Do you truly want to be a musician? Or do you just want to be famous? Creating, performing and collaborating is the best way to find out who you are and what you want from music - and since you’re young, don’t rush: take your time.

The other reason to keep creating is because it might take awhile - so you’ve got to keep at it. It might even take a long while, like five or ten years.  It took Nadia years to become successful in music, but she doesn’t mind, because she thinks she’d be writing songs either way. It’s a fundamental part of who she is, and she knows that because she kept at it, and surrounded herself with strong mentors who could encourage her along the way.  

Nadia's into mentoring, and so is The Big Idea. We'll be doing more on this subject in the days and weeks to come, and hope to be pointing to some unique opportunities. Meanwhile, if you've had a significant mentoring experience that you're willing to share, let us know, at editor@thebigidea.co.nz

Written by

Sam Grover

6 Aug 2018

Sam loves telling quirky stories about The Big Idea’s community of artists and interviewing successful arts practitioners to gather insights about funding and commercialising their art. 

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