Naked on the Bench: My Adventures in Pianoland
is the delightful memoir of pianist/composer Robin Spielberg, one of my favorite artists ever. Robin and I have been friends for many years, so although there were not a lot of surprises for me in the book, reading it was like getting to know Robin all over again. An extraordinarily positive and upbeat person, Robin tells her stories with humor, wisdom, and total honesty. The book is divided into six parts plus a prologue, so the stories aren’t always in chronological order, but jumping back and forth in time allows the book to read like a compelling collection of short stories grouped by common themes.
The book begins with a recurring childhood dream where Robin discovers secret rooms inside her piano and is able to meet regularly with a grandfather she had never met and to hear him play. From those magical moments, we travel through the life of a budding artist from her hyperactive childhood thinking everyone must have an orchestra playing in their heads like she did to the poised and polished concert artist she is now. Quite a few chapters recount the years in New York City when Robin played in upscale piano rooms during much of the day and acted in theater productions by night. One of the founding members of the Atlantic Theater Company, she was able to juggle her pianist and acting selves for an impressive period of time, and many of those stories are enlightening, laugh-out-loud funny, and tear-jerking - some all at the same time! Robin also tells her very human stories of love lost, true love found, and the miracle of her daughter, Valerie.
What makes Robin Spielberg’s concert performances truly exceptional is the way she is able to draw her audience into her music with the stories behind each piece and her very personal and “naked” style of playing. As a writer, she is able to do the same thing, letting us see inside her head and get to know the heart and soul of a true artist - the ups and downs of a life that chooses you rather than the opposite, the joys and sorrows, the insecurities that plague all artists as well as the experiences that bring confidence and stage presence. If you love Robin’s music, this book is a must-read. If you don’t know her music, I can guarantee that the book will seduce you into Pianoland.
Naked on the Bench
is available from robinspielberg.com
and the softcover, ebook, and audiobook are available from Amazon and iBook. Very highly recommended!