To me, a mentor is having a special relationship with someone who shares their knowledge by giving the very best advice to guide you through life. A mentor doesn’t have to be famous, but does have to have a true passion for giving their time and wisdom to a younger person. The younger person just has to be open to listen. I was lucky enough to be the mentee of the incomparable Patti Austin.
As I child, my parents introduced me to every style of music, from the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald to the soulful tunes of Earth Wind & Fire to the talented Carol King, sparking my interest early to become a singer one day. I still remember this first time I heard Patti Austin for Ella in the 7th grade and fell in love with the song A Tisket, A Tasket, wishing I could sing just like Patti. One day, I entered a contest and chose that very song though the sheet music was nowhere to be found. Looking on her fan website, I noticed it was her birthday and decided to email her, sending her birthday wishes, telling her I loved jazz and singing, and also asking for the score for A Tisket, A Tasket. To my surprise, her manager wrote back asking for a photo and a demo CD. The next thing I knew, I was on a train with my family to New York City to spend a weekend with Patti Austin! I went to a recording studio and recorded Someone to Watch over Me with her. Patti taught me how to hold myself on stage, how to dress for a performance and she told me to learn, learn, learn! Our time together was magical and it gave me the motivation to pursue my dreams even more. To this day, I can remember every moment shared with her, it was the most amazing experience of my life.
During that same weekend, I also met Ari Meyers, a wonderful person who filmed the entire mentoring experience. A couple of years later, Ari called me to tell me about a new concept she had created called My Purpose Party™. She explained that the concept of My Purpose Party encourages youth to utilize their talents to create their own dream party for a charity. Charity has always been a passion of mine, so I held my first My Purpose Party on October 11, 2009, raising $2000 and 500 pounds of food which was given to the food pantries of Exeter and West Greenwich in Rhode Island. This year I held my Second Annual My Purpose Party on September 25, 2010 for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Exeter and West Greenwich Food Pantries while promoting farmers through a musical concert. With my goal of raising $10,000, I was thrilled to have Patti perform at the event and enjoyed another wonderful weekend of mentoring and thoughtful advice. I have been so moved by her giving, gracious spirit that I hope one day, I can get the chance to return the favor of mentoring someone myself.