The Importance of a Second Opinion

Earlier today, I made a trip up to the University of Northern Iowa for an All-State workshop with the professor of flute, Angeleita Floyd. Although I was reluctant to go, considering the amount of homework I still had left to do, I ended up having a very beneficial experience, as I often do when I go to these types of events. If you’ve never attended an All-State preparatory clinic, or any other clinic geared toward music, here is a general definition:

A musical clinic is an informal meeting with a guest musician, where a small-to-medium sized audience questions the musician’s styles and techniques and also how to improve their own skill. The musician might perform an entire piece, or demonstrate certain techniques for the audience to observe.

A girl is critiqued by an experienced player during a flute clinic for the benefit of herself and other attending the clinic.
A girl is critiqued by an experienced player during a flute clinic, for the benefit of herself and others attending the clinic.

In the clinic (also called a master class, workshop, etc.) I attended today, our focus was on preparing for All-State. We began with breathing techniques (Yes, we actually practiced breathing. If you play an instrument that requires air, I know you understand the importance of this!) and then we worked on the etudes. A projection of the two pieces was put up by Dr. Floyd, which allowed us to analyze different techniques and ways to go about practicing them.

While I love my private flute teacher, sometimes I need to hear things from another person. We all do sometimes, even in instances not related to music.  You can learn so much just by getting a second opinion. In fact, I love to get several opinions!

Last year, when it got close to the date of my All-State audition, I began playing my audition material for anyone I could get to listen to me. Not only did this build my confidence in playing in front of others, but it also allowed me to hear from many different people. I got several different opinions, some of which I threw out, and others I kept because I knew they would enhance my playing ability.

You can learn many different things from an expert in your field of study, such as music, sports, or writing, just by going to someone new. We all have our favorite teachers, instructors, and coaches, but that doesn’t mean that they are the only ones out there who know a lot about a particular area of expertise. Often times, especially when we are stuck, getting tips from a different person can help you see the problem you are having in a different light. This can be very beneficial in helping you get past a recurring issue.

For example, if you are having difficulty in understanding how to divide fractions in math class, perhaps you need to see another way of doing it from someone else. In my case, sometimes I will be stuck on a particular technical passage in a piece of music. Getting help from someone other than my private teacher can assist me in finding out the underlying problem. It’s not that my teacher isn’t good enough to help me fix the problem, but it might just be that what it takes to fix the issue, is something she hadn’t thought of.

In the end, it’s all about collaboration. We take all these suggestions and ideas from each other, and use them to better ourselves. Next time you are struggling with something your favorite teacher can’t help you out on, or you just want to gain some insight on a particular topic or skill, get a second opinion. Or a third. Or a fourth. You get the point!

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