My second chair experience goes back several years. In fact, it started at Olson Jr High in Minneapolis in the fall of 7th grade. As a trumpet player I took band. There was a separate band for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (with some of the better 8th graders making it into the 9th grade band). The band teacher, Mr Miles, surprised me one day by telling me that he was working on getting my class schedule changed so that I could be in the 9th grade band as a 7th grader! This just wasn’t done! He pulled a few strings and convinced the administration that this was something that would be of great benefit for me.
It was just a year earlier that my father had died from Hodgkins disease. He had encouraged me to start playing the trumpet and mentored me along for two years prior to his death. Playing the trumpet was something that I enjoyed a great deal then and still do today. I never had to be reminded to practice. Whatever the reasons, Mr. Miles knew that moving me up to the 9th grade band would be good for me as a trumpet player and as a young man. He was right on both accounts. For the rest of that school year I sat in the second chair on the first part. The 1st chair trumpet player was a 9th grade girl who was probably the best musician in the school. Spending the next several months playing trumpet alongside her advanced my skill much more quickly than if I had followed the normal course. By the end of that year I was performing 1 or 2 grade levels ahead of my peers and was being exposed to a wider range of concert music than usual.
That simple act by Mr. Miles to identify this ‘next generation leader’ in his midst and promote him ahead of schedule gave me great confidence as a musician and a leader. Knowing that there were adults who placed their confidence in me enabled me to attempt things I might not have otherwise. I ran for student body president in 9th grade (I lost by 8 votes!) and again as a high school senior (which I won). I passed an audition for the army band program and played trumpet for Uncle Sam for 3 years. It was during this time that I met some amazing musicians whose talent and skilled far exceeded mine. Here again my role was most often the second chair and sometimes the third.
I think the lasting legacy from Mr. Miles role in my life is twofold. One, that I found joy in sitting in the second chair where I could play a vital role and contribute to the overall success of the team. Sometimes I get to play parts with the first chair leader and maybe even get to go solo once in a while. Second, an active desire to identify those next generation leaders around me and encourage them to levels of skill and performance that they didn’t know they were ready for.
If you sit in the second chair, my encouragement to you today would be to actively seek out those merging next generation leaders around you and coach them to greater levels of leadership. I would like my legacy to be that I have helped train, disciple, and equip next generation leaders for effective mission and ministry.
How are you training next generation leaders today?
As a next generation leader do you have second chair leaders (or any leaders) who are mentoring, discipling, or coaching you?
As an emerging leader, what role could a second chair leader play in your life?