Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Lights, Camera, Action!
Most of my cello teachers had a mirror that we would use in lessons, and they suggested having one at home to get a better view of my technique. It was really helpful, and my thoughts about it as a young cellist ranged from "Wow, my teacher's right, I really need to straighten out my bow" to "Hey, my hair looks alright today." In other words, the alternate angle helped me realize what my teacher was telling me, while still feeling like a normal kid.
I remember one time, though, when a teacher wanted to video record me and I totally froze up. I'm more used to being in front of a camera nowadays (to the point where I enjoy sharing imperfect works in progress), but I remember feeling incredibly self conscious about having that lens pointed at me while struggling with a technical challenge. If you've ever felt camera shy, imagine that combined with knowing that every tiny mistake is going to be captured on video...forever!
Look, not all of my students are like that. But just to play it safe, I use the front facing camera whenever possible. My experience tells me that kids are more used to looking at a mirror and taking selfies than they are of having a teacher record their every move, so I roll with it to capture their playing in a more natural state. It breaks the wall of the teacher as observer and director. Instead, we're both doing a project together, especially by jumping in the shot.
Recording isn't even necessary--just by staying on, it can easily play the role of a traditional mirror, letting them see their playing the way we do sitting across from them.
Try it for yourself--next time you want a practice or performance recorded, try selfie mode on the music stand. It's a fun way to document you want, without the standard side
effects of feeling watched and judged on camera.
Neil Fong Gilfillan is a Suzuki cello teacher in Frisco Texas. He and his wife Rachel Samson on viola/violin run Chili Dog Strings, the only string studio in Frisco named after a dog. To see more of his teaching tricks and performances, check their studio Facebook page, YouTube channel and Instagram!