There’s no question that our past experiences shape our music.
And it’s often interesting how we each breathe life into our music differently.
Today, we’re featuring Robin Spielberg, a veteran of the stage.
Robin is an actress-turned-piano-performer, and I’m happy to welcome Robin as a guest to Artiden!
Performing is what Robin loves and does best; after all, Robin’s onstage career has been quite exciting so far (you can read Robin’s bio below).
So, I invited Robin to share her performance tips, and maybe divulge a couple theatre secrets…
“[M]y ability to… connect to audiences through both my playing and story-telling separates me…”
Robin’s Distinguishing Quality
I love performing live. I know many pianists who work very hard at their piano skills and their repertoire, but when it comes to performing live they are filled with dread!
To be an effective performer, it is very important to not only enjoy playing for others, but to feel comfortable in your own skin. The practice of losing self-consciousness is nearly or *maybe* even more important than piano skills.
“I spent the first ten years of my professional life as an actor.”
Having studied at NYU drama and having acted in over 60 plays gave me confidence in front of audiences. My stage presence as an actor and the skills I learned translated beautifully in my concert career.
I think my ability to compose music and connect to audiences through both my playing and story-telling separates me from many other modern composer/pianists in the field.
Robin’s Practice Schedule
My practice schedule varies.
I had a few concerts this month with my trio (guitar, piano, cello, fiddle, vocals) and we play predominantly Americana music. In preparation I needed to review all of our arrangements and rehearse with the players each day as well as during sound check in the venue.
When prepping for my solo shows, I usually run through the program several times. At this point in my career, much of my practice is “mental practice” which I can do anywhere—in the garden, on the plane!
“I take two days of complete rest each week where I do not play piano at all.”
On a Pianist’s Most Important Skill
This is a great question! It is hard to pinpoint the MOST important skill because being a professional pianist requires the balance of so many elements…but since you asked, I would have to say DEDICATION.
“The piano will give you what you put in.”
The piano will give you what you put in. There is no substitute for putting time into the instrument. There is no way to avoid this.
All the wishing, hoping and desire int he world cannot compare to the person who actually sits on the bench and plays.
Play everything and anything. Play pop music. Listen to the radio and try to translate what you hear to the piano. Make up a tune. Rearrange a Mozart melody. PLAY, play, play.
On Dealing with Performance Mistakes
Mistakes are going to happen. We are all human.
After you make your first mistake on stage you will be filled with nothing but relief, I assure you.
“I remember one teacher telling me that if you make a mistake, that means you never properly learned that particular passage.”
You will see the sky doesn’t fall, the audience doesn’t leave, thunder will not sound. You will survive it. I remember one teacher telling me that if you make a mistake, that means you never properly learned that particular passage.
Study it so it won’t happen again.
I don’t experience much nervousness on stage, if at all. I feel very comfortable on the bench. I DO get nervous about other things, however! I worry about the plane being late, about traffic, about the piano being tuned properly, but I find that once I am on the bench my worries disappear.
Telling Stories with Music
“Each note is a word; each silence a punctuation mark.”
For me, the aural experience is the richest of all the senses.
Some people see a painting in a museum and are moved to tears. They can look at it for hours and experience the painter’s thoughts, feelings, soul.
“A beautiful flower, a child’s smile, the death of a loved one… each of these are stories that can be told through music in a way that is more soulful than the written word.”
For me, it is music that does this. Each note is a word; each silence a punctuation mark. A beautiful flower, a child’s smile, the death of a loved one… each of these are stories that can be told through music in a way that is more soulful than the written word.
Theatre Techniques for Music
“… I am very at home on the stage.”
Specifically, the technique I learned as a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company has transferred beautifully to the world of music.
In the theater, the technique addressed “being in the moment”, “choosing an action”, “analyzing the script”.
In music, it is also important to be in the moment and not “pre-plan” a performance. Analyzing the script is akin to analyzing the music. The notes on the page (like the words on a page of a script) are the tools that help the actor (or in my case, the musician) achieve an action.
In other ways, acting has also helped a great deal. I think a lot of talented musicians are not schooled in public performance and the fears, woes and pitfalls that come along with public performance.
Acting in so many plays over the years in front of live audiences has given me a comfort level; I am very at home on the stage.
Robin Spielberg is one of America’s most beloved pianist/composers. With an impressive tour schedule and over a million recordings sold, this Steinway Artist has been winning the hearts of listeners around the world with her compelling melodies and sensitive piano technique.
A prolific composer, Spielberg has sixteen recordings to her credit and appears on over 40 compilations around the world. Robin is a Celebrity Artist Spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association.