Early opportunities 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 won principal positions in both the international Spoleto and Aspen Music Festivals. At Aspen he tried busking solos and duets on the street; learning survival and networking skills.
Robinson then went to Boston to study with the symphony assistant 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.
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 almost Brahmsian counterpoint. With these works he launched CutTime Simfonica before winning a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2010.
That same year, while the DSO Musicians settled into a 6-month labor strike, Robinson learned about the Classical Revolution movement that began in San Francisco in 2006. They casually perform or read classical chamber music in bars, clubs and cafes. Organizing the Detroit chapter, Robinson began placing symphonic music where it never was before. CutTime’s mission locked into place; we choose to connect, discover, inspire and serve our common humanity through this special music.
CutTime is the complete expression of that choice, offering two unique outreach ensembles, a pop-up club classical series, a large catalog of hit symphonic reductions, popular works, effective metaphors and an imagination for making easy and compelling stories of the classical arts. After 22 years he began resigning his DSO position in 2012 to seek national partners for growth.
Detroit Free Press Music Critic Mark Stryker recently 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”.