BY LEANN DILBECK –
Music has very many different meanings to people, regardless of the genre and regardless of the listener or the creator, it can serve as an outlet of emotions or as an expression. For four Mena children and their mentors, it has brought about a bond and friendships that wouldn’t normally get to happen.
All four students take music lessons from local teacher Becky Hooper.
Hudson Vacca is from a musically talented family and is able to play by ear, stunning his mentor, Colton McDaniel, and his teacher when he sat down and began playing the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” from the Nutcracker without a single lesson on the song.
Colton said he is motivated by activities where he can see progression and that is what he finds most fulfilling as Hudson’s mentor, “I can see him make progress over time and it’s just really cool to know that I’m helping him make that progress.”
Watching the two interact, it becomes very obvious that there is more than just lessons that connect them.
Hope Lott is mentored by Colton’s sister, Courtney. Hope’s instrument of choice is a guitar and credits a friend of the family who came to her after the loss of her [Hope’s] father and wanted to get her involved in music. Hope has only been playing for a couple of months and her enjoyment and admiration of her mentor glows. “It’s been fun because Courtney is really goofy!”
Hope said she enjoys playing any style of music. Courtney strongly values the ability to be able to help someone, “I like knowing that I’ve been helping someone. I can say that I’m not just her mentor, I’m her friend too because she can talk to me about other stuff too.” Courtney is a self-proclaimed instrument “hopper,” also playing piano, flute, and is hoping for a violin for Christmas.
Both Courtney and Colton have made the commitment to serve as mentors through the school year and through their example, Becky hopes others will be inspired to invest into the lives of those younger. “We’ve had two more who have requested mentors because they’ve heard these two [Hope and Hudson] talking about how wonderful it is. The younger ones think it is really cool that the older ones would take time out of their lives to help them… it’s a really big deal to have someone take time to try to help them.”
Becky said it is particularly fulfilling to her as a teacher to watch the McDaniels, who she has had since they were very young, to be maturing and willing to pass on their knowledge and skills to a younger generation, “That’s just very special to watch.”