Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teacher's Advice to Parents, Don't Record Your Children

You will not capture on screen the qualities that make a live performance memorable.  But you will capture the pop of the microphone, someone's cough, a flat note, the kid in the background scratching, the momentary look of panic when the chorus rushes ahead of the beat.  Worse, when your child looks back at the recording, he or she will have already outgrown that body, that voice, that look -- and will be embarrassed by something that felt magical at the time.

Without video, what you and your child will both remember is a moment when your child's spirit stretched to inhabit a character outside of the child's own experience, and the whole audience, participants in the story, held its breath. 

Even the best digital screen diminishes that moment.   No wonder teenagers since the mid-seventies have avoided singing:  they've seen how awkward and flat they "really" were. Was there ever before a generation of human beings that did not sing? Only here, only now.

Please, don't put a screen between you and your child's performance.  Instead, treasure the chills down your back when the lights faded, before the applause erupted.  That's better than the dry digitized husk of the event.

I plead as an educator who has been moved to tears for thirty-plus years by young actors' performances, who has had to fight the damage done by video to kids who think they're 'not good at" performing.

An historical note:  Edison invented recorded sound at a time when every town had its own band, every organization sang its own anthems, every class sang every day without accompaniment, and workers sang together as they worked.  At the time, celebrated American composer John Philip Sousa predicted that recorded music would kill the musical life of America. He predicted, rightly, that  amateurs would compare themselves to highly trained professionals, a single recorded performance would be treated as "definitive," and Americans would become merely music spectators. 

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