Sunday, December 25, 2011

NPR on Detroit's Rick Robinson: 'Taking Classical Off The Pedestal, Into Black Communities'

[Rick Robinson]

Guy Raz of NPR speaks with classical bassist Rick Robinson, whose website is, in an interview (7:55) which aired Dec. 24, 2011, and can be heard now:

“Detroit Symphony Orchestra bassist Rick Robinson is taking leave in order to reach new audiences.”

Comment by email:
Merry Christmas! Thanks for sending this out.

I was thinking about all of the chamber ensembles everyone on your e-mail list either play in or know pretty well throughout the country.  Rick's Cuttime Players are really on a roll.  As you heard him on the interview, he is planning several performance tours in the New Year and beyond.  He is planning a tour for the group, but it is not actually his group.  He would do the touring and would use professional symphony musicians in each of those cities.  I think that those cities would be hot markets for this unique, exciting music.  I mean, the music is very pleasing to the ears - the rhythms, the strings being in the forefront (rather than background), etc.  He writes these pieces and arranges others.

He recently played his last concert with the Detroit Symphony as he will be taking a leave-of-absence for a year.  When I was in Detroit for Thanksgiving I attended his Classical Revolution Detroit Concert.  It was excellent.

What Rick is doing is working to bring orchestral music to common everyday people in everyday places where one would not normally see orchestral music being performed - restaurants, clubs, bars, coffee shops, speak-easies (whatever those are), churches, schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, boat docks, forests, beaches, boardwalks, airports, office complexes, stadium pavilions, and so on.  This could save the jobs of orchestra teachers (like me even though I am close to retiring - I am in my 29th year and plan on going to 35; metro Atlanta is in good shape because we have so many string programs in schools).  My whole teaching career and even before includes getting more young black children interested in playing stringed instruments.  In my schools I have to compete with the band, but a lot of those years my numbers are strong and my students play a wide variety of music (R & B, Negro spirituals, gospel, hip-hop, reggae, etc. in addition to traditional orchestral literature also known as "classical."  

Symphony musicians can also see another side of creating work and creating a market for it. And, most of all, people who may not come to symphony concerts can see orchestral music being performed right before their eyes (for little or nothing), especially in the African-American communities...and even in rural areas (anyone of any race).  Several years ago I took my youth orchestra to Thomasville, GA, a small town in South Georgia.  When they played, "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce, everyone in the audience sang along (black, white, Asian, etc.).

I have a few former students who are performing in symphonies professionally that would be a good fit for this program in Georgia and South Carolina.  Two played in my youth orchestra and may have played in Sphinx some years ago (you and some of your readers may know them; Ismail Akbar on cello and Alvoy Bryan, viola).  They play very well and know about rhythms.  They play in a quartet together.  

Rick's website is  Everyone can see much more of what he does.

Your assistance will be greatly appreciated in spreading the word of this exciting venture in the promotion of orchestral music to audiences everywhere.  As a board member of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), Inc. and director of the D. Jerlene Harding Memorial/NANM Youth Orchestra, I intend on sharing this information with the membership.  NANM has a fantastic newsletter called "Reverberations."  Thank you for your support.

David E. Robinson, III

No comments: