Robinson celebrates 30 years at Stetson
For everything that world-renowned classical guitarist Stephen Robinson has accomplished – and that list is quite impressive – teaching for 30 years at Stetson certainly is a feather in his cap. But he might say his greatest joy in life was marrying a true partner to him, personally and professionally, who shares a very busy life that includes four sons, a recording career, guest lecturing, hosting workshops, teaching at Stetson and performing numerous concerts around the globe.
A native of New York, Stephen began playing guitar when his parents took him to pick out an instrument for his ninth birthday. “This was a time in history when The Beatles were emerging in America, and everything related to guitars and rock was very cool,” Stephen explains. “But in college, a friend of mine took me to a classical guitar concert. From that point on, I changed my focus on the guitar from rock to classical performance.”
Stephen and Patrece met while they were both pursuing undergraduate degrees at Florida State University in the summer of 1978 and were married two years later. “Patrece is an amazing pianist in her own right but we decided when we were engaged to focus on my performance career. Her skill set is suited more toward business and all the work that goes on ‘behind the stage’ so-to-speak. My career really is ‘our’ career,” said Stephen. Stephen went on to do graduate study at Yale University and returned to FSU where he and Patrece earned master’s degrees. Stephen would go on to earn the first-ever Doctorate in Guitar Performance from FSU as well. Meanwhile, Stephen and Patrece’s family of two quickly expanded to six with the birth of four sons: Anthony, Nicolas, Alexander and Benjamin.
Stephen founded the Guitar Program at Stetson in 1983, his inaugural year on campus. Over the years, he has accumulated many awards including two National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalists Awards, a National Endowment for the Arts Recording Award, a Fulbright Fellowship for Performance and Research in Canada, and two Stetson University Hand Awards for Excellence in Research and Creativity. The first Hand Award was bestowed for his outstanding work with children and seniors and the second was for his unparalleled performances and recordings.
Even with all the accolades, the Robinsons remain grounded. “The most important thing to both of us is family and maintaining balance with everything we juggle. As a professor, I strive to teach not only music but life skills – much like a parent – and the best lesson many of my students tell me I’ve given them is understanding how to ‘do it all’ and be successful. And I wouldn’t be able to do all this without Patrece.”
“What his students admire most is the balance with performing and teaching at such an incredibly high level,” explained Patrece. “This is evident in the quality of students he’s taught and the fact that they are still in contact with him over his 30 years at Stetson. That’s his legacy.”
The Robinsons aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Stephen and Patrece were recently featured at the Guitar Foundation of America’s Annual International Conference at the University of Louisville, where he offered a solo performance and they gave a joint lecture entitled, “Developing and Sustaining a Successful Music Festival.”
In celebration of his 30 years at Stetson, he will present a concert performing solo and collaborate with Stetson colleague, Boyd Jones, D.M.A., University Organist and Price Professor of Organ, performing compositions for guitar with organ and harpsichord. Another celebratory concert will be held on Oct. 25, where he will be the guest soloist with the Stetson University Orchestra and conductor Anthony Hose. Both concerts will be in Lee Chapel.
He and Patrece will welcome their first grandchild in October and a second daughter-in-law in November. Next summer, the Robinsons will be in Italy for their inaugural “Sorrento GuitarFest,” a five-day festival for all levels of classical guitarists.
“When I look at what I do, it’s a privilege,” explained Stephen. “I get to go to college and work with talented students every day. I get to practice guitar every day. I married my best friend and we enjoy working together every day. I am a very lucky guy!”
by Trish Wieland
A sample of Robinson’s recordings can be heard online. His CDs are also available on Naxos Music Library, Amazon.com, iTunes and ClassicsOnline. For more information on the Sept 20th performance, please call the Stetson’s School of Music Concert Line at (386) 822-8947, the School of Music at (386) 822-8950, or visit www.stetson.edu/music.