Celebrating a decade as a self-taught classical composer, Rick Robinson began in Detroit with cello, then bass in public schools before attending the Interlochen Arts Academy for three years of high school. While attending Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory for double bass performance, he won principal bass positions in several regional and summer orchestras, as well as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with composer John Williams.
In 1989 he was famously invited to join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) without audition after subbing for two years. Robinson then quietly committed to reaching out to the community. First, he transcribed familiar symphonic music to launch the mixed octet CutTime Players, finding numerous opportunities to bring grand music to smaller venues.
Then, with several of these transcriptions under his belt, in 1999 Robinson had the vivid dream that led him to write his first major composition, the romantic-style ESSAY (After Sibelius) for large orchestra. The DSO premiered this work in 2006 with Thomas Wilkins conducting. The influences of favorite composers such as Strauss, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Schubert notwithstanding, the success of this premiere expanded Robinson’s potential to draw new listeners into the classical tradition.
He then began composing a dozen works to start a second outreach ensemble, a string sextet with optional solo woodwind and percussion called CutTime Simfonica. With an eye toward popularizing classical arts, half of these works fold in familiar urban pop and folk grooves to shift the dramatic narrative from the woods of Vienna to the streets of Detroit. These works let non-white listeners hear themselves reflected in classical expression, creating curiosity for art music in non-artistic communities.
By 2010 he won a Kresge Artist Fellowship in Detroit for these works and organized the Detroit chapter of the Classical Revolution movement, amplifying chamber music in popular venues, like a band. Having published much of his hundred transcriptions since 1997, Robinson finally incorporated the umbrella enterprise CutTime Productions LLC in 2010.
Now known as Mr. CutTime, Robinson resigned his DSO position by 2013, to work nationally and with all sectors, showcasing a huge library, seeding more Classical Revolution chapters and proposing to the industry a new standard for community engagement that facilitates genuine exchanges and brings together community creativity and the classical standard.
In 2013 Robinson won an Arts Challenge Grant of $30,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to professionalize and expand his club classical series within Detroit where he often performs his best known works, Pork ‘n Beans and City of Trees. Today, CutTime is cutting loose with classical to reset the context for the traditional art form. As an African-American, his work is all the more powerful.
In 2014 CutTime® joined Fractured Atlas for fiscal sponsorship, to solicit tax-deductible donations for ongoing project operations and to apply for some project grants.
These tracks demonstrate the blend of fine and pop art expressionism Robinson has developed. It includes a reading of an elegy called First Grief, which he wrote after his father’s death in 2011.
City of Trees is a dramatic story outlining the gauntlet studious inner-city students walk between school and home.
A programmatic work Gitcha Groove On! represents a symphony player taking a night on the town looking for a dance groove to fit his mood.
All string works are scored 2 vln, 2 vla, vc and bass, today adding percussion.
This YouTube video promotes the Gitcha Groove On! CD project and it’s intended impact touching the broader community. Video production is by Studio Lumumba of Detroit.
This roughcut preview of Robinson’s 2009 composition Highland Park, MI: City of Trees has the composer telling some of the background inspiring the work. Video production is by Roche Photo of Troy, MI.