Thoughts + Articles

Connecting from Protégé to Leader to Mentor

We stand on the shoulders of our mentors. No matter what your occupation or interest; there have been people who have “taken you under their wing” to help you grow.

When you begin something new, it is your mentor’s belief in you that keeps you going until your own belief in “you” kicks in.

I began as a protégé at the age of 8, studying with William Whitson, who was a Concert Violinist and military officer. He smiled and showed me how to hold the violin and bow, where to place my fingers on the string, and how to make a sound on the instrument by pulling the bow across the strings. He did this by modeling how to play for me and then having me try it.

He also taught me how to read the notes on the musical page which is parallel to reading a book and taught me at my first violin lesson to play the theme of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Ode to Joy.

Mr. Whitson’s encouragement was the fuel that kept me going during my moments of frustration.

Many years later at 17, I had the honor of playing at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. That journey would never have been possible without the investment my mentor made in me.

My first leadership role was that of a teaching assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University at 17 years of age. Even though many of the students were older than I was, I taught the same way Mr. Whitson taught me, wearing a smile, demonstrating how to hold the violin and bow, and having them try it. I walked around the room to help improve each person’s hold on the violin and bow and gave them encouragement. Just as Mr. Whitson believed in me, I believed in them.

One student was 6 foot 2 with huge hands he was trying to wrap around his violin. After showing him how to pull his left arm down and hold his hand by bending his thumb slightly, he was able to play a few notes. This was his lightbulb moment!

While I was teaching, I was continuing in my protégé role studying violin with my Professor.

That school was a stepping stone for studying at the Juilliard School. While studying at the Juilliard School, I played Principal viola in the 92nd Y Orchestra. My leadership role was playing solos with the orchestra and leading my section. This job gave me a stipend to pay my rent.

Herman Silver, 75, was a member of our viola section. He was an amazing amateur violist who played beautifully. During the weekends, he was passionate about playing chamber music in his home with New York City’s best musicians. You could feel the excitement dripping from his pores.

Herman loaned me the music for each concert two weeks in advance. He loved sharing his passion for chamber music with the next generation and having world class musicians lead the way. Herman was an encouraging, inspiring, and motivating mentor.

At Herman’s concerts we performed with concert violinist, Toscha Samaroff who had been a student of Leopold Auer. Toscha, 75, played the difficult first violin parts to both Mendelssohn’s Octet and Spohr’s Octet. Toscha was an extraordinary leader playing with a beautiful tone and lovely phrasing. I played both first viola parts in these works with Herman playing the second parts in a beautiful steady manner. Playing with Toscha Samaroff and Herman Silver was a marvelous experience I will long remember. They encouraged and inspired others to play at their top level of performance.

My leadership style today is as a leader who is both a teacher and mentor to my team members helping them improve and grow.

Great leaders are people developers, building strong relationships with others. They encourage, inspire, and motivate their protégés and team members. They do this by modeling the work and believing in the people they lead. This is my leadership style.

What three things do great leaders, teachers, and mentors have in common?

1) They want to develop people. They build strong relationships in an atmosphere of growth and learning.

2) They care about others and want to help them reach their goals by encouraging, inspiring, and motivating others.

3) They help their protégés or mentees build healthy self-images by believing in them before they do.

We stand on the shoulders of our mentors. How can you keep their legacy continuing for the next generation?

By stepping up and being a leader and mentor who motivates, encourages, and inspires others to reach their top level of excellence!

Madeline Frank, Ph.D., is an Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, teacher, John Maxwell Team Member, concert artist, and parent. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Business”. Her observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. Her latest book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available everywhere books are sold. If you need a speaker contact Madeline at:

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 at 1:46 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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