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In the Weeds

“In the weeds” was cocktail waitress speak for pre-Broadway hour. Back in the 1980’s, my shift began at 4pm with the lighting and distribution of candles on small round glass tables in the Broadway Lounge of the Marriott. The lounge sported a view of Times Square and it was moving. Literally. The room moved. It was one of those 360 rooms that slowly, ever so slowly rotated so that each customer sitting at a table in its perimeter would, at some point, get a view of the bright lights and magic happening eight stories below. By 6pm, the room would begin to buzz. It was busy. Loud. Hoppin. A couple who was on my right side at two o’clock might be at three o’clock by the time the drinks were ready at the bar for pick up. Did I mention the customers were moving? You had to stay on your toes. If you were having an off day, and couldn’t stay on your toes, you’d be in the weeds. And that was not a good thing. There would be unhappy people without their pina coladas, customers demanding their checks, and tourists with expensive Broadway show tickets worried they’d be late for curtain. All at once. The trick was to ask another waitress who wasn’t as busy for help, before you were in the weeds. Before the crisis hit. You’d have to split your tip of course and give up a few tables, but you’d also get to keep your stress at a reasonable level…and your job.

I’m glad my waitressing days are over, but at times I still find myself in the weeds. I have to remind myself that it is okay to ask for help, delegate work, and say no to new projects to keep myself healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This week I felt the overload coming, so I made a pre-emptive strike. I hired someone to do some sheet music proofing for me (something I normally do myself). Instead of buying, lifting and spreading sixty 40 lb bags of mulch this past Spring, I had a local gardener who was looking for work do it. (My garden is happier and I have more time to do the garden tasks I love.) When I was overwhelmed with an upcoming photo shoot, I hired a professional stylist to get my hair and make-up just right instead of doing it myself. When I found myself frustrated with the amount of time it was taking to re-design some marketing materials, I called a freelancer and handed the project over. Yes, often delegating costs money, but this buys me more time at the piano, with family, an hour or so each day to exercise, which are priorities.

And for those of you who thought this post was going to help you with those weeds in the garden? Sorry. I can’t really help you there. I just pull them out old-school style, one by one…

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Finals

It’s “Finals Week” at the university. Today wraps my first year as a college professor and I can honestly say I liked the gig. As I write this, my students are taking their final exam in my “International Music Industry” class. We covered trends in the music business around the world: music consumption, censorship, the ins and outs of live touring, technological advancements. How and why do I know this stuff? I guess I have always been fascinated with the business of music. I love it. Teaching this course gave me reasons to research and study up further and create modules that would be relevant, interesting and yes….fun. For the past few months, I found myself constantly clicking on international music business news links that crossed my path on the world wide web. One thing led to another. I clicked on music industry growth charts, articles on the resurgence of vinyl, copyright cases and took notes. I never imagined I would be an instructor at a university, but I find I am well suited for it and at this point in my career it made a lot of sense. I found that I am passionate about teaching and that my students both inspire and motivate me to be my best giving self. This month each student gave a presentation on a foreign country’s music scene. Everyone, and I mean everyone, earned an A on their presentation. There were so good. I was so proud that I talked about them to anyone who would listen. The week following the presentations they took to the stage in front of 1500 audience members to open for Joan Jett in the university’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Show. They were spectacular. Like all endings, this one feels a little sad. Some of the students are graduating. Will I ever see them again? It’s a small world in this business of music; something tells me I will.

 

A while ago I posted this photo of my mother, who joined me during an east coast concert tour. It was so lovely having her with me for company and conversation. She has been “in the wings” for me as long as I can remember.

These past two years I have been in the wings for my daughter while she explored her college options. We visited schools and then visited them again. And again. We traveled together for auditions (she is planning on majoring in music performance) and jumped up and down as the acceptance letters began to come in. Choosing a school is hard. There are so many things to consider. My job was to be supportive and stay in the wings; my husband and I both knew this was a decision she would need to come to on her own. This, perhaps, was the hardest part! This week, Valerie made her decision. She will be attending a beautiful small private college and majoring in music. We are so proud of her. It seems like just yesterday that I was composing the piece, “Until You Come Home,” when she first left to start first grade. And here we are.

To all the mamas and the papas in the wings cheering your kids on, here’s to you! It’s not always an easy job, but it is the best one.

above: our daughter, Valerie, practicing for a concerto competition (she won!)

 

 

 

 

Thinking Small

1973-36e8716be4ecc8a2518a440ddd0a9a88I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to return to the beautiful Mohonk Mountain House (pictured here) to perform a concert. Located upstate New York, this beautiful inn is surrounded by acres and acres of preservation land. There are gorgeous gardens to walk through, a maze to get lost in (or find yourself in), hikes to take, boats to row, rocks to climb, bike paths to ride on, golf balls to be hit, a picnic lodge, spa, and my favorite: porches where you can sit and read or just watch the sunset. Having only one full day there this year, we decided to do as much as possible. I always enjoy a hike to “Skytop” which ends with an amazing view. This year we approached it on a foggy morning and enjoyed a different kind of scenery.IMG_2455

After being at this beautiful place over a dozen times, I surprised myself by trying something completely new to me, “rock scrambling.” Meghan, who works in our Kosson Talent agency office (kossontalent.com), told me her former college roommate happened to work at Mohonk and led “rock scramble” adventures. I thought I’d give it a try since I wanted to meet Meghan’s friend. We met Alex with a group of about 10 other adventurers at 10am at the bottom of the staircase. We were given a brief orientation and then tightened our hiking boot laces and were off. Had I seen photographs ahead of time of what we were about to climb, I never would have signed up. Alex showed us a vertical wall of rocks that we would climb to achieve great views of the valley below. When I hesitated, she looked at me and said “think small.”

My whole life I have been training myself to THINK BIG. To follow my dreams. To not limit myself, to grow, stretch and do beyond what I thought I could do. And yet, in this situation, looking at the big picture was just intimidating, and well…scary. Alex continued, “Look at your next step. Think of where your hand will go. Where your foot will go. If you make one small move at a time, you will be ok.” She was right. I figured out where to place my shoulder, when I needed to scoot over a rock on my butt, when I needed to stretch out my arm to grab a ridge, and bring my foot to the next good foot hold. Before I knew it, I was on TOP of the mountain and could see turkey vultures circling at eye level over the valley below us. When I looked down, I couldn’t believe I had climbed over all those rocks. I had done the “rock scramble,” and I could never had done it by “thinking big.” I had to THINK SMALL.

IMG_2398So it is with touring. Looking at my schedule people often ask me how I can do it all. Well I can’t do it all at once…but I can go to one place at a time. Instead of thinking about the entire concert program, I just need to play one composition at a time…one measure at a time. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try thinking “small.” You’ll be on top in no time.

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First Grade Re-visited

IMG_0650I remember first grade more vividly than other school years. Where  Kindergarten was full of play, first grade was serious business…or at least it seemed that way to me. I missed my mother. Some days I cried. Embarrassment over being weepy made me cry even more. I was an anxious first grader. But I cheered up at music time. We’d gather around the piano in Mrs. Schwartz’s classroom and sing our hearts out. Rounds of “Row, Row Row Your Boat,” and “This Land is Your Land,” “My Grandfather’s Clock.” I’d sing all the way home. This week I went back to first grade. Nine times. I visited eight elementary schools in southern California as part of a grant secured by The Carpenter Center for the Arts. The kids seemed to really enjoy to learn how the piano worked, what it sounded like, how I played it and its history. They had a zillion questions. Their curiosity reminded me how amazing the 6-7 year old brain is: full of wonder.

Steinway & Sons was gracious enough to send me 1000 sheets of stickers to give out to the kids. Some of them say “Future Steinway Artist” on them. You never know.

Today, on my last day of the residency program, all 1055 kids took a field trip to the beautiful performing arts center and I performed an hour-long concert for them on the beautiful Steinway grand. I will cherish their enthusiasm and kindness always.

Whadda Ya Know?

I was talking with a girlfriend the other day and she said, “How do you know so much about gardening?” and I laughed and told her I really didn’t know anything about gardening. And that made her laugh, because to her I am some sort of garden expert. I guess there is so much to learn about a subject as big as gardening that I never figured I knew much of anything at all. I am not a master gardener (yet) and I still make plenty of mistakes. I would probably give the same answer if someone asked me if I knew much about music. I’d probably say, “No, I don’t know much about music,” because given the enormity of the subject, I know very little.

We are never through with learning, but we might surprise ourselves with how much we have picked up along the way and how much knowledge we have accumulated.

So think of something you know about: cooking, canning, gardening, repairs, crafts, music—-and share it with a friend, through social media, with a family member. Post on Pinterest, share a recipe, seeds or a tip. Whaddayaknow? Tell me: robin@robinspielberg.com229071_1099425938057_4668175_n

“Come on Over!”

7880766298_49d265477d_bIt was too good to be true, but there it was, all in the commercial. Palisades had the rides, Palisades had the fun and in just thirty seconds it was clear that there was no where better to be than this place: Palisades Amusement Park in Palisades, New Jersey.

The commercial aired quite a bit, but for some reason it would crop up whenever my parents were NOT in the room. I’d yell for them to come in. THEY HAD TO SEE THIS! There were rides and a POOL  (the world’s largest salt water pool) and all kinds of things to DO!!!! But, alas,  by the time they came in to see what all the fuss and shouting was about, the commercial had aired. Gone. Poof. My sister and I could only hope they would see it one day and take the hint: we wanted to go there.

Then one day it happened. I had been sleeping in the back seat of our car when suddenly I was woke up by shouts of “We are here!”  We were in a parking lot. A big one. Where were we? I had thought we were going shopping. My sister pointed to the billboard outside the car window. PALISADES AMUSEMENT PARK. It was too good to be true. Our parents saw the commercial! They had taken us on a surprise trip! We couldn’t believe our good luck.

The park is no longer there, and I don’t remember much about that day other than the incredible happiness I felt in that parking lot, my sister getting sick on a ride I coerced her into going on that required two people and some soft icecream with sprinkles on top, but I do remember the theme song, word for word. Do you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLVgEP8pOWQ

 

 

Anticipation

Another Time Another PlaceI am writing you from my host’s home in Salt Lake City Utah. Last night the lovely pianist Michele McLaughlin hosted a house concert in her beautiful home and a few dozen people came out to hear us play. We told stories and played her gorgeous Fazioli piano which overlooks the valley. It was the perfect “piano parlour soiree” and the appropriate setting for me to premiere work from my newest collection of piano solos, “Another Time, Another Place.” Some members of the audience had driven all the way from Idaho, Montana to enjoy this intimate piano experience, and that it was. During intermission those gathered here nibbled on refreshments and mingled and told us their stories. I received hugs from almost everyone. One person had recently lost her brother unexpectedly and in the tears she shed during “After All,” she found healing. Another told me that each Christmas for the past 15 years her family has gathered around to the sounds of “In the Heart of Winter,” and another told me that he was “dragged here” and reluctant to go to a piano concert but was oh so glad he did because now he just felt better. And that’s what it’s all about. I feel better too—when I compose music and share it with you.

Two more days until my CD is launched and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Here is an interview I did that you might enjoy. http://www.ambientvisions.com/

xo Robin

About Time

Our lives: they are all about TIME, aren’t they? What we do with it, what we make of it, how we view it. I have been obsessed with the concept of time ever since learning how to read a clock. Tick, tick, tick. Time seems like a constant, but it doesn’t feel that way. Ever. It seems to move too quickly, or too slowly. It flies when we are having fun, it stalls when we are in pain, we wake up in our old age wondering where the heck it went.

CD BookletMy new CD (due out April 28th) was inspired by time and all its mysteries.

In keeping with the music’s theme, my site has antique-inspired watch necklaces to bring out the time traveler in you.Click here to order

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The link below will take you to my MARCH news.  Happy Spring, Robin

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/202194/f90171633d/1742500289/eff3af0543/