Classical bassist Rick Robinson (Mr. CutTime) was once famous for being invited into the Detroit Symphony Orchestra without audition in 1989 to become only its 2nd African-American member. And now he’s famous for leaving this position voluntarily 22 years later to attempt to reconcile the art form with the broader public while he still can.
Robinson built a career on playing orchestral bass, but he was also an ambitious soloist, playing recitals, concerti and string quartet cello parts. These led him to arranging, conducting and composing to launch CutTime Productions, an ambitious mission-enterprise, creating broader access to, and appreciation of this magical art form. He began to create, test and refine deeper goals and methods for community engagement and music education, Americanizing symphonic music both within and outside the arts environs. Robinson cares about the general population as well as the future of the industry, translating the musicians’ why and how to reveal the shapes and ecstasy that unlock active listening and connection.
The music critic for CVNC, Jeffrey Rossman wrote, “Mr. Robinson, in a sense, is a modern day Dvořák. Known as “Mr. CutTime,” this Detroit Symphony bassist is a passionate advocate for classical music and musicians stepping down from the pedestal of the concert hall and merging into the musical life of the community: schools, clubs, bars, coffeehouses…basically anywhere where people congregate. This is far from a new concept, but Robinson’s personality, aggressive advocacy of this, and his remarkable playing, composing and arranging skills put him in the forefront of this movement.”
Only emerging as a composer in 2006, Robinson began by playing cello, then bass, in the public schools of Detroit’s inner suburb of Highland Park. His mother, a school psychologist, played classical piano and sang at home daily. His father, a university recruiter, sang folk songs with a powerful baritone and learned acoustic guitar.
His older siblings too learned violin, cello, bass and sax in public schools. The eldest David began copying out popular music from the radio for his high school band. These were the seeds for Robinson to excel early on, see the world, return to Detroit and become increasingly adaptive throughout his unusual career.