Orchestra camp

His love of orchestral music began after attending two summers at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Then, scholarships to attend their high school, Interlochen Arts Academy, brought  him his first private lessons, solo recitals, concerto competitions and orchestra leadership. He studied bass with R. Park Carmen and Jeff Bradetich before graduating. While at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he studied with the Cleveland Orchestra’s Principal Bass Larry Angell, and won principal positions in the two regional symphony orchestras of Akron and Canton (OH). In summers he was handed principal positions in both the international Spoleto and Aspen Music Festivals. At Aspen he tried busking solos and duets on the street; learning entertainment and networking skills.

Robinson then went to Boston to study with the symphony’s Assistant Principal Larry Wolfe at the New England Conservatory. There Robinson won principal of the Portland (ME) Symphony and assistant of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, then directed by legendary Star Wars composer John Williams. An ambitious solo recitalist, Robinson began adapting solo works from other instruments and in 1987 he won the Haddonfield (NJ) Symphony Concerto Competition playing Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra 2010 by Hart Hollman
DSO 2010 by Hart Hollman

Professional catalysts

Also in 1987 Robinson became a regular sub for both Boston and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. During a 1989 European tour with Detroit (DSO), he was suddenly elected to full membership to resolve a political demand by two Michigan state legislators for more African-Americans members. While affirmative action controversies raged around him, Robinson calmly assumed a new calling to reach outside Orchestra Hall, launching CutTime Players with eight DSO musicians in 1994.

After a prophetic dream in 1999, Robinson began composing his “accidental” symphonic score Essay No. 1 (After Sibelius), which DSO read in 2003 and chose to premiere in 2006. Subsequently Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker called Robinson “an armchair composer with promise and a taste for fleshy romantic textures and orchestration.” Resolving to compose then with more intention, by 2009 he composed another dozen works, half of which seamlessly blend familiar urban dance grooves and popular references with high quality counterpoint. With these works he launched CutTime Simfonica and won a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2010.

That same year, while the DSO Musicians settled into a 6-month labor strike, Robinson first learned about the Classical Revolution movement that began in San Francisco in 2006. They enthusiastically perform or read chamber music repertoire in bars, clubs and cafes. Organizing the Detroit chapter with volunteers, Robinson began bringing hit symphonic music with his reductions to places it’s never been before. His chosen mission then locked into place; to connect, explore, inspire and celebrate our common humanity as never before and to fix classical with a little technology and entertainment values.

CutTime quartet + percussion on club stage as people listen on
CutTime Simfonica plays both background and foreground in clubs, changing the soundtrack of life.

CutTime is the complete expression of that choice,  offering two unique outreach ensembles, a pop-up RAW classical series, a large catalog of hit symphonic reductions, popular works, effective metaphors and an imagination for making easy and compelling  introductions to the classical arts. After 22 years he resigned his DSO position at the end of 2012 to seek national partners for audience development.

Detroit Free Press Music Critic Mark Stryker also wrote, “Robinson has been an innovative force in bringing chamber ensembles into non-traditional venues and classrooms, mixing it up with a variety of creative repertoire and generally proving that classical music belongs not on the fringes of contemporary culture but at the heart of everyday life”.

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