We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Robinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, how do you think about risk?
In order to grow, risk-taking is necessary. I have a tendency to approach risk taking in cycles. I’ll have a new idea for something I want to add to my studio, teaching, or performance. I’ll do a bunch of research and make a plan for how to implement the new element. Then I realize – this is new and a little bit scary! What if it doesn’t work? But I’ve had the idea, so I’m compelled to move forward and put my plan into action. The first steps are exciting and the results are invigorating! Then the new element gradually becomes a regular part of my routine and I become comfortable with it. Which is great! I’ve made a positive change and added something new, which benefits my students and my studio as a whole. I relax in this comfort for a little while. And then I have another idea…..and the process begins again. For example, after 20 years of primarily teaching private lessons, I decided in 2019 to begin offering small group music lessons. I had been hearing about the many benefits of group learning from colleagues, and I was excited for my students to have the opportunity to experience these benefits as well. So I began to research group teaching methods, curriculum, materials required, etc. After months of planning, it was time to take the plunge. This meant completely rearranging my physical teaching environment to be conducive to both group and private lessons, purchasing several digital pianos, preparing lots of musical games to be used in the group classes, and recruiting and scheduling groups of students. While the preliminary steps were a ton of work, and the future was uncertain, our group lessons turned out to be a smashing success! Our small group students have so much fun learning together, supporting each other, and challenging each other to do their best. They come bounding into the lesson room each week excited to play together, perform for each other, and play musical games together. Success! It’s also interesting that students experience a similar risk taking process when confronting something new in music lessons. They start out with little or no musical experience, and at their first lesson, they learn some new skills. They go home and play and practice, and return to their lesson the next week feeling confident in their new abilities. And then it is time to take another risk – to learn something new, to go through the process of feeling uncertain, learning something unfamiliar, practicing and gaining confidence, and then being rewarded with the amazing feeling of having mastered a new skill.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My mother is a musician and retired piano teacher, and my father is a musician, writer, and a teacher, so I was immersed in music, arts, and education throughout my formative years. My mother started teaching piano lessons to me and my younger brother as soon as we were able to sit up at the piano. When we were older, my brother learned cello and I learned violin. We played duets together, and piano trios with my mother. When we were teenagers, my brother and I played gigs at local coffee shops with my father, and got hired to play garden parties and weddings. And when we were in college, we formed our first band together. I went on to study music in college, and also began teaching music lessons, all the while continuing to perform. Over the years I’ve played in cover bands, pit orchestras, played folk and fiddle tunes, and have gradually evolved to be performing and recording my own original music along with my husband in our band The Summer Januaries. I have been lucky to have the experience of being a part of many different musical communities, learning and being inspired by others, and also getting to share my music with others.
One of my goals in my teaching studio has been to create a musical community for my students. Participating in group workshops, small group classes, and concerts gives students that opportunity. They experience the joy of performance, sharing their music with others, and building confidence. When students come together, they get the feeling that they are part of something special, they feel each other’s support, and they love supporting each other!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When my best friend visits we always take her to Balboa Park, and visit many of the museums. Favorites are the Timkin and the San Diego Art Institute. We eat burritos at Ranchos Cocina in North Park and get delicious vegetarian Thai food from Plumeria in University Heights.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Huge shoutout to my amazing husband Sean for supporting me in everything I do. He’s an illustrator and designer at Living the Line (LivingtheLine.com), and he graciously lends his many visual art skills to my business, including designing logos, fliers, my website, and documenting our studio events with photo and video. He’s also my musical partner in our band The Summer Januaries. I am so lucky to have him as a partner in music and in life!