Filed Under:

Taking Classical Off The Pedestal, Into Black Communities

Play associated audio

Twenty-two years ago, bassist Rick Robinson became just the second African-American to join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

But at the end of this month, he's stepping away from his post — perhaps permanently. He'll be touring with smaller ensembles in an effort to bring classical music to African-American and other underserved communities.

"What I've come to conclude, at least at this point, is that there's something about the large concert hall and the huge number of people, and then separated into a huge number of people in the audience — it's just overwhelming," Robinson says. "And the concert experience itself — if no one greets people or tells a joke or explains anything about the music that they're about to hear in a personal or emotional context, they're just left wondering, 'Well, why am I here? It doesn't seem to make any difference that I'm here.'"

Robinson is aiming to play more intimate stages, with his arrangements for an eight-piece ensemble and his compositions for string sextet, which "blend classical with urban pop styles." It's not a new format for Robinson, who is artistic director of an octet of fellow Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians known as the CutTime Players. He says he's aiming to bring classical repertoire "off the pedestal."

"I'm anxious to get to the future," he says.

Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, spoke with Robinson about his plans for next year.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Kate Mulgrew: "Born With Teeth" (Rebroadcast)

Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.


Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.