Aaron Robinson (b.1970) is an award–winning, Emmy-nominated American composer, conductor, musicologist and best-selling author. He received critical acclaim for his work as conductor and musical arranger for Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity: In Concert – A Gospel Celebration.” The creation of which was documented for public television and went on to receive worldwide acclaim, resulting in several a best-selling Christmas gospel album, numerous annual productions and a Broadway vocal score. He is a proud member of the Grammy Recording Academy.
Robinson attended Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine. At 16 years of age—without ever taking piano lessons—he taught himself Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. By his late teens, he was creating, performing and producing concerts and theatrical productions, including the musical Moody Blue for which he wrote both the music and lyrics.
Robinson studied composition and piano performance at the Boston Conservatory of Music with composer John Adams and Lawrence Thomas Bell, as well as film scoring with John Williams at the Berklee School of Music. He has lectured extensively on the history of American music, including early jazz and ragtime, The Great American Songbook and its composers, Broadway, and film score.
He has also written for television, film and theater. Many of his classical works have been performed throughout the world, including his “Sonatina for Bassoon and Piano,” “Suite for Band,” “An American Requiem,” “Variations on a Theme by Handel” for piano, and his famous “New England Ragtime Suite," which has been called one of the most original works of ragtime written in its true form since the turn of the 20th Century.
"Ragtime is such a happy music. It was the first music I ever heard -- that and church music. And I suppose when you think about Ragtime, you either play it, or you listen to it, because you want to be happy. It makes you happy."
In an article entitled “Robinson and Ragtime”, David Welker called him one of today’s leading proponents of early jazz and ragtime music. When asked what is was about ragtime music that intrigued him, Robinson answered "Well, it's never gone away. Out of all the styles of music over the decades, it's one that has remained. There was a Ragtime revival in the ‘70s with of course, the movie, The Sting. You can still hear Ragtime, even today. And Ragtime is the basis of all music that has come after: jazz, big band, rock and roll. All of that is the foundation from which Ragtime is. But Ragtime is such a happy music. It was the first music I ever heard -- that and church music. And I suppose when you think about Ragtime, you either play it, or you listen to it, because you want to be happy. It makes you happy."
Robinson lives on the coast of Maine with his wife and son.
While I was researching and recording the music of Glenn Jenks, I was looking for a specific piece of music and found a Facebook page devoted to Jenk's music. I messaged the page owner and was surprised to get not only a quick response, but an attachment of the specific piece I was looking to record. The owner of the Glenn Jenks Facebook page was Aaron Robinson. Aaron listened to some of my recordings and sent me the following message:
"Corte - I've noticed your love for a certain style of rag ... so I'm sending you my Suite - which I think the 2nd movement (Bluet Rag) might strike a chord with you ~ ENJOY! Aaron"
It most certainly struck a chord - Bluet Rag is one of the most beautifully constructed pieces of ragtime I've ever played (and you can hear it below). Aaron Robinson is an American composer who's voice deserves to be heard.
Bluet Rag (1997) - Bluet Rag is the 2nd movement of Robinson's New England Ragtime Suite. You can tell a lot about quality piano writing when the piece you are playing almost plays itself - when the hands and fingers are able to completely absorb the notes and melodies. Such is the case with this beautifully crafted piece. It's a wonderful example of the traditional ragtime form. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed performing it!
Caterpillar Hill (2004) - This piece is from Robinson's album "Moments in Maine" and was dedicated to his good friend Ed Shreve who died of AIDS in 2004. Caterpillar Hill is in Blue Hill, Maine and was a favorite place of Ed's. His ashes are scattered there.
Ragtime Waltz (1994) - I love the dissonant harmonies Robinson used. The piece itself shifts around from key to key, making it a bit demanding to play, but well worth the effort!
Locating The Music
Aaron Robinson's music is available directly from his website at http://aaronrobinson.info/sheet-music/.
Compositions for Piano
12 Original Rags for Piano (1989)
The New England Ragtime Suite (1993)
La Belle Epoque - 12 pieces for Piano (2011)
James and the Boys (2016)
Prelude, Fugue and Choral “Le Petit” (2019)
Variations on a Theme by Handel - For Piano (2019)