The Big Think

December 10, 2007

Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

Filed under: Disclosure,Education — jasony @ 1:25 pm

When I was in college I had a vocal teacher named Richard Robinson. Mr. Robinson was a very kind and gentle man who really knew his stuff. He had a huge amount of experience and was a wonderful teacher. He taught me a lot not only about how to sing correctly (and teach singing), but also about how to be a better human being.

One of the funny things about Mr. Robinson was the fact that he had some kind of issue with his eyes. He was completely blind in one eye (I think), and the other one had muscle problems, so it couldn’t focus very well on one spot. The only problem was that nobody knew which eye was which! I would stand in my lessons singing for him but not know which eye to look at. It was very disconcerting and I never did figure it out.

I remember one wednesday (my lessons were always on wednesday at 10am) I had a lesson with him. I had been having a really terrible day for some reason. I don’t remember what it was- a bad test, a breakup, existential angst, it’s funny that I can’t remember now what had upset me so much then. Anyway, Mr. Robinson could tell that something was wrong. In the middle of my lesson he stopped and, with a very understanding look in (one of his) eyes, told me to go home and take a rest. I was always very grateful to him for that.

I received the Baylor alumni magazine a few days ago. In the “In Memoriam” section is the sad news that Mr. Robinson passed away. Just for the future Google record (he deserves that, at least) here’s his memorial:

Richard Robinson, 78, a Los Angeles tenor who premiered Igor Stravinsky’s “In Memoriam Dylan Thomas,” “Threni” and “Elegy for J.F.K,” and recorded many works under the composer’s direction for Columbia Records, died Sept. 6 in Bakersfield, California.

Robinson was choral supervisor for the city of Los Angeles from 1965 to 1966 and taught voice at Baylor University from 1966 until his retirement in 1993, when he moved to Bakersfield. He was married to soprano Caterina Micieli, whom he met in the Roger Wagner Chorale, from 1953 until her death in 2001.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, on June 2, 1929, Robinson moved with his family to the Los Angeles area in 1937. He studied at Los Angeles State College (now Cal State L.A.) and USC, sang in the Roger Wagner Chorale and became active in the innovative Evenings on the Roof concert series and it successor, Monday Evening Concerts.

In addition to Stravinsky’s “Persephone,” “Canticum sacrum ad honorem Sancti Marci nominis” and “Noah and the Flood,” he recorded works by Schoenberg, Webern and Gesualdo, the latter conducted by Stravinsky’s close friend and biographer, Robert Craft.

Farewell, Mr. Robinson. Thank you for your teaching, your example, and your kindness.
Go home and take a peaceful rest.

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