In the 19th century, apprenticeships were already common as crafts and trades were very often governed and managed by powerful guilds. Craftsmen would offer training, shelter and meals in exchange for the labour of a young unskilled worker, many of whom become indentured to their masters for years. Over time, many of them would then learn useful skills that led them to a better life.
Today, apprenticeships have evolved with these learning opportunities presented to individuals with aptitude and flair, who are seeking to upgrade themselves. Take famed French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, for instance. His culinary career started in 1969 when he apprenticed with chef Gérard Nandron at Nandron, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon, France. He slowly worked his way up, earning his chops in different kitchens. He now boasts establishments in various cosmopolitan cities, including Singapore.
Such informal mentoring programmes ensure that the young craftsman pushes the envelope and tests his own abilities. This was what young American musician, composer and drummer Marcus Gilmore achieved under the supervision of acclaimed Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The initiative is an international arts mentorship programme that pairs recognised masters in various fields with aspiring artists. Under Hussain’s guidance, Gilmore, a music prodigy himself, managed to create his first composition for an orchestra.
“I spent some time at [Hussain’s] place, and he created a safe space for me to figure out my creative process. He kept me grounded and focused, which was really, really imperative,” said the grandson of legendary American drummer Roy Haynes, adding that writing for an orchestra for the first time in his life gave him such a big learning experience. “Because to have all the melodies in your mind is one thing, but to find out a way to articulate them [into] what you want is a whole different thing. Also, dealing with ranges, different instruments, textures and sound design [is not easy].”
I spent some time at [Indian tabla great] Zakir Hussain’s place, and he created a safe space for me to figure out my creative process. He kept me grounded and focused, which was really, really imperative
—American musician Marcus Gilmore