Rick Robinson began playing double bass in Highland Park public schools until he attended Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He held several principal positions in regional orchestras as well as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra under John Williams before joining the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1989. During his 22-year tenure he began transcribing symphonic works for a mixed octet he called CutTime Players. He later began composing for a string sextet called CutTime Simfonica and presenting them amplified in non-traditional venues as part of the Classical Revolution movement. Dedicated to spreading the gospel of classical music, he resigned DSO in 2013 to connect with a wider community to classical in bold new ways. While all of his music is neo-romantic, several works blend with urban pop as a fun way to draw new listeners. Read more at cuttime.com.
What inspires you to create?
Even for non-musicians, music is incredibly empowering! So it’s easy to imagine how empowering it can be for people who play it every day or as professionals. Imagine is the key word however, because not all professionals will imagine how they could create something different or useful with their skills.
Besides, it takes learning many new skills to put any creations in front of an audience. Classical music empowers me more than any other music I love: it’s dramatic, fantastic and adventurous, like a movie or a book. It never gets old either, because as a player or just listening, I claim ownership and ride the music like a magic carpet or a tourbus. It inspires me so much I feel compelled to share it with people who avoid concerts in restaurants, bars, cafes, homes, outdoors, even on the sidewalk! Once I realized the tools of classical music are still powerful forms of self-expression and human celebration, I began composing my own, similar to the styles of composers from Bach to Mahler.
Can you describe your greatest creative achievement?
As a composer I hope that my best creations are still ahead of me. So far however I’m most proud of my works blending the folk music of our time, namely urban dance grooves, with classical music development and counterpoint techniques to form a smooth on-ramp into this music for new listeners.
In particular, Highland Park, MI: City of Trees has been a big hit with pop audiences.
As an activist for classical music, if I can use the term, I’m most satisfied with the Classical Revolution Detroit series that info-tains in local bars and restaurants, hiring local freelancers and crossover artists.
There’s nothing like people telling you after that they didn’t think they liked classical music until we brought it and let them participate on toy percussion. Everyone deserves access to classical music too.
What advice would you give to the next generation of creative people?
You can bend standards without first mastering them, but it won’t be nearly as good if you don’t come close to mastering them. And that means going to the best college you can afford for intense study. It’s worth every penny, IF you take it seriously.
What one word would you use to describe yourself or the work you do?
Check out Rick Robinson and his devotion to bring classical music to the masses: CutTime® Makes Classical Click
is a series of profiles of creative people throughout the world that I have either shared the stage with or have observed their talents from a far. The questions are my own and their answers are unaltered.