( a message from Robin....reprinted with permission )
You may have noticed that on my concert schedule there are a number of dates that are listed as “Robin Spielberg’s American Tapestry." Many of you have asked what this show is all about so we’ve created this page to give you an idea!
A few years ago I volunteered at my daughter’s school on “career day." I spoke to the students about my career in music and a discussion began about music and how it changes over generations. I pointed out that there was some music that we ALL knew, despite the generation gaps. Sure enough, the young student knew all of the Americana gems I had mentioned – the same songs that I had just played for people in their 80’s and 90’s at a retirement home the week prior!
When I got home, I got to thinking: there is a lot of beautiful music that, over generations, has become woven into the fabric of American culture. From the Civil War to the Gold Rush to the great wave of immigration during the first half of the Twentieth Century, these songs chronicle journeys, hardships, and loves won and lost, all while celebrating the beauty and majesty of America. With this project, Kate MacLeod (vocals/guitar/fiddle), Stephanie Winters (cello) and I (piano/vocals) perform fresh and innovative arrangements of precious American gems that are interwoven with new music and the stories that inspired them.
by Richard Waterman with contributions from KossonTalent.com.... adapted in part from an interview with Robin Spielberg by Dan Rodricks of "Midday" on WYPR Radio.
What is American Tapestry ?
Robin Linda Spielberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, November 20, 1962. One of her earliest memories is reaching for the keys of the small play-by-number organ at her childhood home in Irvington, New Jersey. As a very young child, she would often hear her mother sing in the kitchen and would play on the keyboard, attempting to mimic the sound of her mother's voice.
When Robin was five years old, her maternal grandfather Elhanan "Al" Cutler gifted a piano to the family. It was a huge expense at the time-- about $5000. Robin's elder sister Eileen soon began taking lessons and by the time Robin was seven, she also was taking lessons from her first piano teacher, Rosemarie Zito. Mrs. Zito gave lessons in her home in Maplewood, New Jersey which was right across the street from Robin's elementary school, Clinton School.
Robin says, "At a young age, I was hyperactive and couldn't sit very long, and my teacher Ms. Zito was great, she just went with it! She knew I had a good ear and so instead of insisting that I sight read everything, she allowed me to develop my ear, something I think many teachers don’t do today. To keep me motivated with the typical repertoire and exercises one is expected to learn, she would allow me to learn a show tune, which was my 'dessert' of sorts. I loved Broadway and thanks to the records my parents played at home, I already knew several scores by heart. If I had done well with my lesson, she would introduce me to a new show tune from a musical of my choice; this is how I learned to arrange music. I credit Mrs. Zito for teaching me the JOY of piano.”
Other teachers instrumental in Robin's musical development were middle school classical music teachers Jane Ericson and Richard Glasser whose lessons focused on performance technique and expression. Lessons with Mr. Glasser were in Robin’s home and while they were to last only 1/2 hour, Robin’s mother would often have to interrupt Mr. Glasser after a two hour stay so Robin could have dinner and do her homework—so excited was Glasser to teach such a quick and motivated learner. In her high school years, Robin studied with Alan Wolfe, focusing more on jazz and improvisation, studying works from Oscar Peterson to Gershwin. Robin was never pressured to practice music as a child. In fact her mother was often reminding her there was homework to be done.
Though Robin's parents were not musicians themselves, there is in fact a history of music in her family. Robin's paternal grandfather Rubin Spielberg and his brother Herman Spielberg were both musicians for the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Arturo Toscanini as well as the Metropolitan Opera. Both were Russian natives; Rubin played the flute and Herman played the violin. Robin never met her grandfather Rubin as he died two years to the day before she was born, November 20, 1960. Even so, she drew inspiration from his accomplishments and still credits his inspiration for much of her creative force. In addition, Robin's grandfather Elhanan “Al” Cutler would play American melodies on the mandolin while Robin would sing along.
While it's true that at a young age, Robin loved music and demonstrated a real aptitude for piano-- at that early time in her life, she did not portend the performance of music for a living. That reality would come later, much by accident. Robin recalls that playing piano as a child was "fun,” but it wasn't until years later that piano as a profession would take the forefront. For the present it was Robin's great aunt Elaine who reinforced the importance of being well versed in the arts. She frequently wrote letters to Robin with reminders that in order to be a “proper young lady,” one had to have good posture and be well educated. Aunt Elaine would help Robin work on her diction during her annual visits. She introduced Robin to the stories of the great operas and gave her books on Greek mythology.
Robin keeps several of these books in her music room as a reminder of her Aunt, and it is no surprise that Robin’s memoir contains an entire chapter dedicated to the things Elaine had taught her. Having grown up in such proximity to New York City, her parents treated Robin and her sister to Broadway shows on special occasions. For Robin, seeing the original cast in A CHORUS LINE at age thirteen was a watershed moment. Soon afterward she found herself dreaming of becoming an actor.
Years later Robin was living in Manhattan following her dream of acting. She had been accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts Undergraduate Drama program at NYU and eventually earned a BFA graduating with high honors. During her time at NYU, she was cast in popular plays and desirable roles. Robin, along with a few dozen classmates, studied acting in Vermont during the summers with Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright David Mamet, actor/director/writer William H. Macy and Lincoln Center Artistic Director Gregory Mosher. The program, called The Practical Aesthetics Workshop led to the formation of the now Tony Award winning Atlantic TheaterCompany. To make ends meet while pursuing her acting dreams, Robin worked as a cocktail waitress in a piano bar in the newly built Marriott Marquis in Times Square. She befriended a woman who was playing the piano in the bar, Robin Goldsby.
One night after hours, Robin sat down and started playing the piano after all the customers had left. Ms. Goldsby heard Robin playing and being duly impressed, suggested that Robin could make a living playing piano if she had the repertoire. Robin had already been moonlighting in the VIP Room of the dance club, Limelight, playing piano in a dimly lit room accessible only to the rich and famous and rock stars. Her hours were 11 pm to 2 am on weekends, but it was a “gig” for fun; not one that paid the bills. Robin had already built up quite a repertoire from all her practice over the years, so Ms. Goldby introduced Robin to her agent.
The agent was impressed with Robin’s playing and gave her the opportunity to audition. The audition was for a steady piano playing job in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Donald Trump’s first New York property, located above Grand Central Station. The hotel managers chose her among a dozen other pianists auditioning for the job. Robin was hired to play the lunch gig at the Hyatt 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Monday through Friday. Often she found herself subbing for the “breakfast musician,“ pianist Earl Rose, who spent a good deal of time on tour and in Los Angeles. Half the year she played from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. She would hold the piano job at the Hyatt in various configurations (various hours and room locations) for the next twelve years.
During the first six years of the job, Robin was still auditioning and performing in plays. When Robin secured her first Actors Equity contract winning a role in the play "Boys Life,” at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, she would play piano for several hours during the day, and then perform the show in the evening. Eventually Robin began playing more and more original music during her gigs. Listeners began to notice her original music and would ask Robin for CDs. Finally after several years, Robin decided it was time to make a CD for her fans and found her way into a recording studio in 1993. Her first CD was entitled "Heal of the Hand." Robin recorded the whole album in one afternoon at Sear Sound in New York City on a beautiful Steinway.
The album was successful; and after selling the first few thousand copies to her loyal listeners and local stores, Robin sent the CD to a couple of record labels for feedback. The executives at North Star Records loved the album and signed Robin to a six-record deal. She followed “Heal of the Hand” with a Christmas album in 1994 arranged for piano, cello and guitar, “Spirit of the Holidays,” a solo piano album of standards and show tunes in 1995, “Unchained Melodies,” a winter album for piano/ensemble that same year, “In the Heart of Winter,” a recording of original piano solos in 1996, “Songs of the Spirit,” and a piano/ensemble album of all -original work, “In the Arms of the Wind in 1997.” She licensed several recordings to the label including “Mother” with artists Cathie Ryan and Susan McKeown in 1999 and a lullaby CD in 2000, “Beautiful Dreamer."
Eventually Robin started her own recording label, playMountain Music. Her debut album on this label, Dreaming of Summer, topped charts in Thailand, China, Hong-Kong, Korea and Malaysia, with one of the tracks also gaining popularity with audiences from its use as a soundtrack in the Korean award-winning television drama Winter Love Song. This track, Robin’s creative and compelling improvisation on the Canon in D has been Robin’s best-selling download on iTunes for fifteen years.
Robin’s popularity grew, eventually stretching overseas, becoming popular with Asian audiences. Robin has released two albums in Korea and is on several compilations on Asian labels. She has toured in South Korea making concert appearances at the renowned Seoul Arts Center, LG Arts Center and KBS Hall. She recorded a special concert for Airiang TV & EBS which aired throughout Asia.
Robin’s music has been heard on the History Channel and in several documentary films. Her music has served as the soundtrack for both the 2013 and 2014 Lantos Human Rights Prize videos (awarded to Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres). In the field of dance, ball-room waltzes were choreographed to her pieces; Walk with Me and A song for Jennie on PBS’ Great American Ballroom Challenge. University ballroom teams, including the BYU Dance Team, have toured with her work, and international ballroom competitions have utilized her music for the compulsory waltz portion of competitions.
In 1997, Robin made her Carnegie Hall debut in a sold-out performance at the Weill Recital Hall in 1997 and has performed there twice since. Other memorable performances include a guest spot on the PBS television special, The Soul of Christmas: A Celtic Music Celebration with Thomas Moore; live performances on CBS Saturday Morning, Good Morning Arizona, Life Time Live, CBS New Orleans, and a private concert for the factory workers at the Steinway & Sons historic piano factory in New York.
In 2007, Robin began a month-long concert tour through rural Montana. She traveled across the state with her own Steinway piano, stopping along the way at nursing homes, community centers, hospitals, concert halls, an Indian reservation, a home for troubled teens……..and anywhere she was welcome. It was a grand adventure for Robin…she even stayed on cattle ranches when some of the towns didn’t have a hotel.
Robin is a Celebrity Spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association. Robin’s interest in music and healing grew when she witnessed first-hand, the positive effect music had on her own baby daughter (born prematurely) during her four-month stay in the neo-natal intensive care unit. An album entitled Beautiful Dreamer was the musical result of this experience, a recording of lullabies and songs for the parent & child on solo piano. Ms. Spielberg’s work with music and wellness has been documented in The new York Times and in segments on LifeTime Live and ABC News. Robin donates $1 from the sale of each “Beautiful Dreamer” CD to music therapy research. As Spokesperson, she conducts workshops and seminars on the topic of music and healing throughout the U.S. in hospitals, schools, community centers, nursing care facilities and performing arts centers.
Robin was the featured performer at two of AMTA’s national conferences performing for over 1300 music therapists from around the world. In 2014 Robin was asked to do a TEDx TALK on music and wellness (now on YouTube on the TEDx channel). She has conducted workshops and seminars for AMTA throughout the U.S. She served as panelist on “The Transformative Power of Music” during the Pennsylvania Presenters Conference and at the American Music Therapy national conference, and has given lectures and workshops on the subject at The Mayo Clinic, Eastern Tennessee State University, Castleton State College in Vermont among others.
Robin’s memoir, “Naked on the Bench—My Adventures in Pianoland” (Spobs Music Publications), tells of Robin’s adventures on the piano bench and off. Released in 2013, it was featured on numerous NPR stations and in book clubs nationwide. The book, whichdemystifies the process of building a concert career and tells what is unexpected in the life of a touring musician, won the GOLD MEDAL in the 2014 Reader’s Choice International Book Contest in the non-fiction/entertainment category. “Whimsical and charming, Naked on the Bench reveals that an open heart and sense of humor are essential companions for living life and making art.”—Jenn Gordon, Steinway & Sons, Concert & Artist Dept. The Kirkus Review calls the book “A well-paced musical memoir about the value of perseverance.” The book has been released in softcover, e-book and audiobook formats, with Spielberg as reader (Amazon.com).
As of this writing, Spielberg has seventeen albums to her credit and appears on over 40 compilations around the world. Her newest recording is Another Time, Another Place, a recording of original piano solos that the composer says “explore the mysteries of time.” Released in 2015, the album climbed to the #3 position in the Zone Music Reporter (a list that charts instrumental music releases around the world) and has been nominated for “Piano Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio.
Robin currently resides in rural Pennsylvania with her husband/business partner, and their teenaged daughter. Robin continues to tour the country and the world sharing her special brand of piano music to the delight of piano fans everywhere!
"A Walk Between the Raindrops"
“These are melodies (that) suggest a hand of comfort and connection from past to present.” --Music Road
photo: SVEN 2013
Click on an album to explore / purchase.
“From the moment she walks on stage, until the last note gently caresses the room, Spielberg casts a spell on her audience that is palpable, visceral, and spiritual. Better said-after you see her perform, you’ll just feel a whole lot better about the world.” --Bruce Bressack, HippoPress New Hampshire
Robin Spielberg is a seriously accomplished artist with an immense body of work spanning decades. We have listened to many of Robin's compositions, and in so doing, we have reached a greater understanding and appreciation of the depth of her abilities. Robin is very gifted at seamlessly blending left and right hand together into melodic masterpieces where the left hand "doesn't know what the right hand is doing," and we say that in the most complimentary way. It takes a very talented artist to pull it off the way Robin does. Robin herself discusses the "separate hands" concept in her tutorial video for her song, "The Nature of Time." Left and right hands may take separate journeys, but the resulting music leads to one place....a place of love in our ears and hearts. We are honored to welcome Robin Spielberg, a most authentically talented artist, to the Artist Gallery at Real Piano Music.com.
"One Last Look"
"Another Time Another Place"
Robin Spielberg's American Tapestry - Circle of Life
"Flower in the Rock"
Robin Spielberg has been a featured artist on Real Piano Music.com since November 13, 2015.
Real Piano Music
Robin Spielberg -- TEDx Talk, "The Healing Power of Music"
Real Piano Music says:
Robin Spielberg's American Tapestry - Medley
Real Piano Music.com
Real Piano Music.com
"I Remember Spring"
Note: Robin has many more videos on her YouTube channel. We have selected a few of our favorites for inclusion on this page.