During dinner last evening, the brouhaha over Beyonce’s alleged lip-syncing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during Monday’s presidential inaugural ceremony provided some interesting conversation for my husband and me. The first part of the conversation consisted of me trying to explain to him exactly who Beyonce is. She rarely appears on the hunting and sports shows that he favors. (He will have a chance to see her during the NFL Super Bowl halftime show, but he usually restocks refreshments during that interlude.)
Once he understood that she is a really big-deal entertainer, and after I had filled him in on the highlights of her personal life, we moved on to debate whether or not a lip-sync qualifies as “phony.” He opined that it was fine: “What difference does it make if she’s singing it at that moment or if she sang it in a studio? It’s still her singing.”
I could see his point, and I brought up the Yoyo Ma cello recording necessitated by the weather at a previous inaugural.
But then I asked him: “Suppose you went to a Joe Cocker concert, and later found out that Joe wasn’t really singing….that he just lip-synced a CD that you already own? Would that be OK?” (My husband adores Joe Cocker and will perform kitchen karaoke of “Feelin’ Alright” at the slightest provocation.)
“Well, no,” he responded. “I guess that I would feel cheated.”
All this had me wondering if I sometimes “lip-sync” my classes. Students have a right to an original performance, even if the material is the same as the last “show.” If I’m doing my job the way that I want to, each class should have its own flavor, with illustrations, comments, even jokes that reflect the relationships that I have developed with my students and the relationships that they have with one another. Even if today’s performance is not the perfectly mixed recording of my best-ever day, my students should feel that I am uniquely present with them, giving it my very best effort. The song may not be perfect, but it should be real.