KP: Our last interview was almost five years ago - very hard to believe! So many things have changed in that period of time. You moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, Valerie is now in school and taking piano lessons, and you just recently released your fifteenth album, “A New Kind of Love,” your first release of new original material in eight years. I love that album and think it’s definitely one of your best, if not THE best. How is it being received?
Robin: Thanks, Kathy. You are a true champion of new piano music; I am very grateful to you for always taking the time to truly listen. The CD is just getting its first reviews and they have been glowing. All Music Guide gave it four stars this past week.
KP: Were the pieces composed over the eight-year period, or did you write most of them recently?
Robin: I began working on the album in earnest after moving to rural Pennsylvania three years ago. Some of the pieces have been in progress for a long while; I tend to live with material for quite some time before committing it to a recording.
KP: As always, the liner notes say so much about you as well as the music. Is it difficult to be that open with strangers?
Robin: People who have come to know me through my live shows know that stories, poems and anecdotes are a large part of the evening. It seemed only natural to share a little bit of what inspired these songs with CD listeners, most of whom have never been to a Robin Spielberg concert.
KP: Do you have any favorites from this newer group of pieces?
Robin: “A Walk Between the Raindrops” is probably my favorite piece because it was inspired by something my Dad used to tell me when I was a little girl that was somewhat mystical and magical. He died in 2000 and of course I know he would have loved this song; I think of him when I play it, which makes me sad in a wonderful kind of way. The title track, “A New Kind of Love,” is long (for me), coming in at about eight minutes, but it is a reminder of some of the wonderful friendships I have formed since moving here.
KP: Do you have a timeline for when the companion songbook will be ready?
Robin: Early Autumn.
KP: Will any of the sheet music be available digitally?
Robin: I notice a lot of contemporary composers have their music available as pdf files online, but I have not received requests for this. My customer base seems to enjoy buying the matching folios and collections, so this book will be a spiral bound hard copy version.
KP: How has being a mommy changed your professional life?
Robin: Oh, in every way you can imagine. A good friend of mine once remarked, “You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” How true this is. There is a time for everything, you know? I am finding that I make certain choices now based on the needs of my family. I don’t consider any of these choices to be “sacrifices” because that would imply I had to give something up unwillingly. The opposite is true. I would say my life is a lot more balanced now than it was before mommy-hood.
KP: I know one of your favorite things is to work in your yard. The photos of your garden are so beautiful. How much space do you have for your flowers and other plants?
Robin: I am a self-admitted gardening addict. I actually think a lot of musicians are; it seems all my musician friends have lovely gardens. There must be a connection there! I don’t have a tremendous amount of land, but I have a lot more room than I did in New Jersey where I had to resort to digging up the front lawn in order to have a garden! I have a nice-sized back yard with a steep hill. We plowed through that hill and created casual terraces that I fill with perennials and bulbs. I planted about 1000 tulips and daffodils on the hillside. Another 600 will go in this fall. No one can see this hill - just me - so it is my own private space to weed, plant, divide, think and dream.
KP: Do you do all of the planting yourself? I thought it was interesting that you said your manager/husband has a rule that you can’t garden during touring season. Have you ever injured your hands gardening, or is that rule just a precaution?
I do all the gardening myself, but I do not cut the lawn because I am restricted from using power tools! This is a little embarrassing, but I did have a close call a few years ago. In New Jersey, I was moving an oscillating sprinkler to a different location when my finger got caught in the mechanism. It was funny and not funny at the same time. I was soaking wet and screaming. Must have been quite a sight! The pain was very intense and since the sprinkler was on, the mechanism just got tighter and tighter. A neighbor called 911 and no one on the ambulance crew wanted to touch me when they were told that I was a pianist. No one wanted the responsibility. After fifteen minutes of debate (and after someone figured out that they should probably disconnect the sprinkler!), a neighbor showed up with a screwdriver and released me from the darn contraption. My husband drove me to the hand surgeon in New York City for an evaluation. I was fine. In fact I did a gig that night, but that was the end of gardening during the concert season!
KP: Do you intentionally plan your tours around planting season in the spring? =)
Robin: Well, yeah, kinda.
KP: The last time we talked about it, SMG Artists was working with five performing acts, all very different from each other. Is that still the case? Has the agency continued to grow? Do you do a lot of the work for the agency?
Robin: I work for SMG Artists full time. The agency represents eight acts now that range from a brass quintet to theater for young audiences, to Chinese dance to music groups from Ireland. I really love this work. When I am not on tour, my focus is facilitating tours for these other artists. My husband does all the booking and we recently hired two employees to handle contracts etc. I do everything from press kits to financials, payroll, advertising, web site, office management etc. We have a server for the company so even when I am on the road, I can access files from my hotel room and handle the things that can’t wait. We love how our lives and work intertwine and we love the company and all our artists. They are all wonderful people and so talented. It feels great to help them get their work out into the world where it belongs. I probably tour the least of any of these groups. Even though it is my company, solo piano is a pretty hard sell to performing arts centers.
KP: In our last interview, you said that Valerie was going through a period where she hated the piano and the attention you need to give it. She has been taking lessons for a while now. How is she doing? Is she starting to share your love for the instrument?
Robin: Valerie has been taking lessons for two years now and is doing really well. She sight-reads a whole lot better than I did at her age and doesn’t have much stage fright at recitals (which I did). She also started private orchestral percussion lessons---orchestral bells, snare etc. These instruments are FUN. She will be in fourth grade this fall and will be in the elementary school band. She loves the piano, but is less than thrilled when I have to travel in order to play it.
KP: I can remember you saying quite a few years ago that you didn’t think you’d continue a hectic touring schedule after a few years, but you seem to be touring and performing as much as ever. Is this something you feel a real need to do or do you just love doing it?
Robin: Did I say that? I guess I did. Maybe I saw myself working in the agency exclusively---but you know, after this May-Sept gig in the office I get a bit itchy for the road. I suppose it is all about balance, because in 2006 I was on the road too much and really missed my family! Like I said---you can have it all, just not all at once.
KP: When Valerie was little, you did most of your tours as a family. How do you manage now that Valerie is in school?
Oh, it is actually easier now. Can you imagine men taking their wives and children on all their business trips? That would seem crazy! And yet, there I was, with my concert gowns, CDs …. And portable crib, pack ‘n play, diapers, stroller, bassinet, baby foods, and toys all over the place. We traveled as a family when Valerie was nine months old until kindergarten (age 5), and while this kept us all together, it was tough, tough, tough. No one ever slept. I have this clear memory of being on stage playing the Steinway grand in a fancy gown while Valerie was in her pack ‘n play (playpen) in the wings. She was in my line of vision, but the audience couldn’t see her. All was fine until she threw a toy out of her playpen and onto the stage during the show. Quite odd and funny! Another time she lost her binky during a sound check and my husband couldn’t calm her down during the show. He was exasperated, and at intermission we began looking for it to no avail. So, at the top of Act II, I asked the house manager to turn the house lights on and asked everyone in the audience to please look under their seats for a blue-green pacifier. There it was, in row L or something. The audience laughed and seemed to appreciate the working mom thing, but it was exhausting. At least now, on the road the only things I have to concentrate on are getting there, doing my sound check, doing the show. At home I am multi-tasking a zillion things. SMG Artists operates out of our house, so my husband is here to put our daughter on the school bus in the morning, take her to her lessons, handle homework duty and all that. I am very lucky in that not only does he support my music career, he facilitates it and is a wonderful partner.
KP: Please explain the title of your new album, “A New Kind of Love.” What does that mean?
Robin: I’ve explored all kinds of love through my musical adventures: platonic love, romantic love, love of my kitties, my family, my work…but this album explores the new kind of love I have found these past few years - the one that connects me to the world and allows me a greater appreciation of the goodness and greatness of all that surrounds us.
KP: Two of the pieces on this album are Korean songs. How did you come across them?
Robin: They are from a Korean drama series called “Gyeoeul Yeonga.” A portion of my “Improvisation on the Canon in D” was used on this series, and I heard the other songs on the soundtrack and fell for them. I arranged a few of those pieces and performed them for Korean audiences in 2004 and decided to include two of them on this CD as bonus tracks.
KP: How many times have you toured in Korea? Do you plan to go back there?
Robin: I’ve been there twice so far. A tour is being planned for fall 2009.
KP: What’s up next for you?
Robin: I’ve been working on “music and wellness” clinics and workshops through the American Music Therapy Association. I am an Artist Spokesperson for AMTA and have been doing workshops with music therapists around the country for a while now. This fall I will be the featured performer at the national AMTA conference in St. Louis. I will teach a master class on performance techniques, but I will also have the opportunity to take classes and further my education a bit in this area. And….of course, always working on new music, tours, projects, gardening and being a mom, which is the all time most rewarding gig of all.