CutTime Players at Detroit Institute of Arts 2012
CutTime Players at Detroit Institute of Arts 2012 by Bernie Beutel

CutTime® is about adapting symphonic music with new chamber ensembles to bring the dramatic music of symphony orchestras into intimate settings, especially for newcomers. The first and largest is CutTime Players® (CTP), which launched in Detroit in 1994.

The possibility occurred to bassist Rick Robinson at music school when he was rehearsing
Igor Stravinsky’s music-drama
The Soldier’s Tale (Histoire du Soldat). There wasn’t much good chamber music for his instrument and he wondered if adding flute to this mixed septet (violin, bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and percussion) might make good chamber transcriptions of Prokofiev’s famous Peter and the Wolf and Strauss’ tone poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.

After he became a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in 1989, and personal computing became widespread, Robinson started digital music notation in 1992. In 1994 he began to test his earlier ideas with several principal DSO musicians.

CutTime Players plays for DPS
CutTime Players plays for Detroit Public Schools music students.

Birth of a Genre

The success of their debut immediately became a small family concert series with lively variety programs and artistic collaborations. Some regional runouts and small touring soon followed. Over 23 years Robinson has transcribed a library of over 100 famous symphonic, piano and crossover works for this mixed octet. All are rich, famous and lively works, such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Comedian’s Suite, Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, and the Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture. Several whole movements from major symphonies are available; instantly made fresh and intimate as chamber music. While most of these transcriptions are in the public domain, CutTime has print license agreements with G. Schirmer & Hal Leonard to publish their titles. CutTime Players and its music are ideal for sharing orchestras outside of the concert hall.

CutTime Players has a single CD called Live in Dearborn.

The original CutTime Players were:

Sharon Sparrow, flute
Ted Oien, clarinet
Bob Williams, bassoon
Kevin Good, trumpet
Randy Hawes, bass trombone
Sam Tundo, percussion
Geof Applegate, violin
Rick Robinson, bass



CutTime Players showcases symphony orchestras best in small to moderate sized concert halls as well as the intimate settings of clubs with a wide (24′) stage area, featuring what orchestras play, the people in them and what they learn in the process. The fixed instrumentation (with flexible percussion) covers the three main periods of classical music; baroque, classical and romantic. From 1997-2000 CutTime produced a Tiny Tots series for DSO, working with narrators, mimes, giant puppets and dance companies.

We celebrated the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s pivotal Letter from Birmingham Jail  and the I Have A Dream speech with music of Shostakovich, Bach and Robinson. They also featured holiday programs for Halloween, Mozart’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. A Claude Bolling Jazz program is perfect for dinner and special events.

CutTime Players is also ideal for educational programs, often followed by breakout instrumental workshops, such as masterclasses and sectionals with music students. CutTime is resetting the context for classical music and professional standards in schools, inspiring young musicians to practice better, and preparing families to attend orchestra concerts. Once he began composing, CutTime Artistic Director Rick Robinson created a sister ensemble of strings and percussion called CutTime Simfonica in 2010.


Robinson resigned from the DSO at the end of 2012 to complete his vision for the casual presentation of symphonic music; teaching orchestra members, freelance and student musicians ways to effectively share with new listeners the joys of their expression, especially in and around popular culture.

CutTime cuts loose with symphonic music for a broader public.

The mixed octet performs in dimly lit pub.
CutTime Players at St Ceces Pub in Detroit 2015