I would say that love of the piano, of its sound, its flexibility, its endless possibilities is what motivates me to play the piano. I am drawn to the piano. I find it to be the most expressive instrument on Earth. On the bench I feel at home, centered, able to express my deepest most truest self. It is a feeling like no other.
In my case, the answer to this question lies not with a particular person, but with a PLACE. Because of my particular skill set (I can arrange and memorize standards, show tunes and pop songs readily and easily), I was hired to play in piano rooms and hotel lobbies in my 20’s. It was in these rooms, playing for hours at a time as the “wallpaper” or “background music” where I found my own voice as a composer and musician. My days as a steady musician in places like The Grand Hyatt, The Plaza Hotel, The Sheraton Centre etc. lasted for twelve years, so I was honing my skills on-the-job and putting in three-seven hours per day in professional settings that challenged me. There were always new tunes to learn and arrange, and eventually I began composing my own tunes on the job.
I remember being a toddler and reaching up to play the keys on the organ we had at home. I took it on as “my job” to pick up by ear, the melodies my mother was singing in the kitchen while washing the dishes.
Proudest career moment?
I am lucky enough to have several: .Recording my very first CD of all original piano compositions in 1993, playing at Carnegie Hall for the first time was thrilling and exciting. (I debuted at the Weill Recital Hall in March of 1997 and played to a full house), and traveling for a month through rural Montana with Steinway in tow so I could play in small towns that had never had a piano concert before. These were all great things, but I suppose my proudest moments have come “under the radar”, working as a National Artist Spokesperson for The American Music Therapy Association.
Can you tell us more about your work with the American Music Therapy Association?
My daughter was born very prematurely, and music was an integral part of her healing and recovery. I became fascinated with Dr Jane Standley’s work. Dr. Standley has done a tremendous amount of research on the effects of music on the premature infant. This interest grew into a passion and as my daughter recovered, I began to work with AMTA on a few projects. This eventually led to my being a Celebrity Artist Spokesperson for AMTA. I have witnessed, first-hand, the powerful, transformative power of music in a variety of settings: hospitals, nursing homes, schools. Music therapists do amazing work and being able to facilitate that work through outreach, education and workshops is something I love doing. Music therapy is becoming a “hot” career, and services are, in many cases, insurance reimbursable, because the positive medical effects are indisputable. I love the combination of neurology/psychology/music. I am now in my 4th term as Artist Spokesperson and often give workshops and lectures on the topic of music and wellness while on concert tours.
‘Commitment, passion and patience’
Commitment, passion and patience are all required to be good at this instrument, and draw audiences. I admit I do not have the technique to ever be considered a “great” concert pianist, but my commitment, passion and patience have allowed me to find my own voice and create a musicality that is sometimes lacking in the most proficient of pianists. My tip to a young pianist would be to live a life that is full and involves things other than the piano. It is this balance and fullness that will enrich one’s playing and perspective.
The biggest challenge overcome
Stage fright! Ironically, I now lead master classes on overcoming performance anxiety. I used to suffer terribly.
One of the reasons I love the piano so much is that no two people play it or approach it the same way. It is amazing how the “touch” from one pianist to another varies. I love listening to others play and hearing what they can create on the instrument.
A New Kind of Love – review
“I am in love with Robin’s wonderfully comforting piano artistry, & have been for many years now… we have reviewed many of her CD’s, and listened to her spirit mature most pleasantly!… It only takes a few bars to capture your imagination and bring your dreams to life. Some of her previous efforts covered other artists, but this album features all originals, which is why (I believe) it captured my ears so easily. I was most impressed by the track titled “Seeing You Seeing Me”, which feels like a story about friends I’ve known across the decades. Those listeners who love soft/gentle and clearly expressed talent will agree when I declare this CD MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED”
-Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation.