This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. For the complete interview, you can access here.
Kristine Dizon: Hello, my name is Kristine Dizon and I'm the CEO and founder of The Modern Artist Project. Today, I'm with Robyn Saunders. Robin is a performer and music teacher located in Manchester who specializes in piano and woodwind instruments. Robin was trained in classical clarinet, classical piano, and jazz saxophone at Leeds College of Music where she received a first-class honors degree.
She is currently studying for a Master's in Music Performance at the Royal Northern College of Music. As a performer, Robyn has been fortunate enough to tour the world. She has performed piano for the Broadway cast of Lion King and Wicked in New York and accompanied classical choirs in Singapore. As an educator, Robin has previously worked as a piano and woodwind teacher at Marlborough College, Malaysia, helping musicians of any age and ability reach their full potential was a highlight of Robin's year in Malaysia and she's delighted to be continuing this at the Music Shed. Robin's biggest performance achievements include performing as a soloist at the Leeds Direct Arena and at the Leeds BBC venue, premiering New Works for International Women's Day.
Her career highlights are the achievements of her students ranging from a clarinetist who is now going on to study at least a conservatoire with a scholarship and a five-year-old pianist who during lockdown recorded himself performing a 22nd piece, which was then used in a school online concert. Thank you, Robyn, for joining us today.
Robyn Saunders: Thank you for having me.
KD: I know I've read about your accomplishments and all the wonderful things that you've been doing and contributing to the community, not only as a teacher and as a musician but let's hear about your story. And the other highlights that have led you on this path.
RS: Yeah. So I had a clarinet, first and foremost. Despite the fact that I did a lot of work on piano and I had a very traditional music education on clarinet, I would say, I started lessons at the age of six. I did grades one through eight. And then went on to university, and went on to master's. But my work background never seemed to match that.
I was like self-taught piano and then just kind of got ad hoc jobs doing musical theater function gigs. And then even kind of playing in bars playing in clubs which was such fun work. But I always found there was a disparity between how I was working and then actually what I was learning and it just felt like those worlds never meshed.
So when I did my undergrad degree, that came more to the forefront. And then my master's, I really specialized in actually, how can I take how I'm making my income and make it relevant to this clarinet world that I love but doesn't seem to be translating over. That's kind of how I've ended up where I am now. I've graduated from RNCM with my master's degree, which is wonderful, and I am applying for various funding to explore this intersection of different artistic worlds and into clarinet areas. So most recently, I did a drag show, essentially. It was exploring the relationship of music, contemporary music, dance, and drag and how there is a bit in the middle where they all line up nicely that no one seems to have zoned in on.
It was lovely to be supported by Help Musicians UK who paid me to explore that and zone in on it and see what I could do with it. So, yeah, that's my background a little bit.
KD: No. And I think that's amazing. Congratulations, by the way. When we think about these types of things, you mention all the things that you're passionate about, these ideas of places that we have yet to explore, right? And, at the same time, still incorporating the things that you're passionate about, right?
So, which is the clarinet and being able to incorporate that in creative situations? What took you to get there? You mentioned the drag show, which I had the joy of watching and I really, really loved it. I really loved it.
RS: It was really fun to do. Yeah.
KD: I can imagine, being able to take on a persona and engage with people. How were you able to find that route?
RS: I think it was because I actually had some really good business mentoring. Her name was Tamara. She was amazing, and she said something which was, you know, if you have a niche and you're doing what you love, there is someone that will pay you to do that. If you really want to do something, go for it, and there will be an audience, there will be the money for that.
And at the time, I love drag, and, you know, obviously there's RuPaul's Drag Race and that mainstream side. But even so, I live in Manchester. We have the gay village. We have so much great drag artistry, so I go to the drag shows really frequently. And there are some drag artists that do, like Trixie Mattel from Drag Race.
There was a clip of her playing on a pink clarinet. So clearly she played clarinet at school, and she was playing a Disney song on this pink clarinet. It was kind of ridiculous but also amazing. And I was like, well, if they're doing it, why can't you do it the other way and take a clarinetist who then gets in drag. So I zoned in on that. And once I did, I discovered there are people doing that. There's a clarinetist who is a drag queen, clarinetist.
They're a Selma artist, I think they're based in Phoenix, Arizona, I'm pretty sure. So then I discovered that, and I was like, that's brilliant. So why don't we have that in the UK, why are we not seeing that more? So that's kind of how I did it. I just decided, what do I enjoy doing and how am I going to get money to do it? And then I committed to it. So that's where we ended up there.
KD: No. I think when you think about those things of what it means to be resourceful and be able to carry with you the things that you're passionate about because a lot of the time when you're studying music or actually anything within the creative industries, sometimes we succumb to the fact that, okay, after my first four years of college, I'm probably gonna work a job that I hate to be able to save enough money to take auditions or even to travel to auditions or being able to save enough money to apply for more school, right? So we always feel like we're kind of trapped in that bubble just because of financial worries and things like that. But at the same time, you mentioned this idea of this niche, right?
And based on your experiences and along with your background in business, how useful was it for you to get that information to be at a point where you're like, I want to do this, but there is guidance that I need.
RS: I think I've been really fortunate with various people over the years who have mentored me, whether that's even my mom, who I love bits. She's probably the first one who told me to not have an expectation when I was deciding whether to go study music or I was originally gonna go do the math, which was kind of sensible, I'll go do the math.
I'll get a very stable job. I'll earn lots of money. Life will be easy. And it was my mom that kind of sat me down and said, ignore all the negativity in your head. Ignore that logical part of you that says, "Oh, well, there's no money in that. Oh, that would be really difficult. Oh, I'm not good enough for that." Take that away. If you could do anything in your life, what would you do?
And I was like, I would play the clarinet, and she went, well, there you go. So how are you going to achieve that? And she was kind of the first person that gave me that mindset. And then I've been really fortunate to have teachers that have really supported that as well when they've said, well, what do you want to do? And I'm like, well, I wanna do this, and I'm like, okay, as unrealistic as it sounds, absolutely go for it.
And then the business mentoring was great because I got that from Help Musicians. So once I kind of had the funding, they said, alongside, we'll give you someone that's gonna give you that mentoring. So it is about just seeking out the opportunities and giving yourself that end point of where you see yourself and then absolutely just going for it full steam ahead.
And I do really appreciate it, especially once you graduate, the need to have that stable job. So I do teach a lot. I'm very fortunate that I love teaching. I'm not one of these musicians who's like, "Oh, I have to teach for the paycheck." I don't. I absolutely love it. It's one of those things I really enjoy doing.
But, yeah, so you do occasionally need that stable job. But even then it doesn't have to be a job you hate. You can find something stable that you do enjoy on a part-time basis, and that gives you the time to then explore this freedom. So I found that it has worked really well for me anyway so far.
KD: No, I think it's great because when you go through the motions of getting a degree and wanting to make a difference and impact on the world, sometimes you encounter these moments like, "Do I really like teaching?" "Can I connect with these small humans?" But when it boils down to it, ultimately, I feel very fortunate also be creative and also be a musician in addition to an entrepreneur, with the work I've done here with the modern artist project, of not feeling that I'm working. And that's one of the things that I'm very lucky for. I mean, I do work a lot, but it doesn't mean it feels like it, and it sounds like you've hit that place, Robyn.
RS: It's exactly as you say, I'd never feel like I'm working, which is brilliant. And then the only downside is it's really hard to switch off, because even if there's nothing in the calendar, I'm like, oh, well, I'll practice that or I'll sit and learn something new or I'll look for more funding. I'll think of a new project, and that's great that you can make money off something you really love.
But then switching off is the only downside bit. So I think this year, that's been the only bit, is balancing, okay, how do I switch off? And what I've discovered is quite extravagant. I just booked a holiday, so I just booked somewhere where I don't have any instruments and I don't have anything, and I have to physically just sit and do nothing, usually on a beach for like three days, and that for now, that's working quite well and getting me to switch off. Otherwise, as you say, it's great when you finally find a way that you can earn a living off something that doesn't really feel like you're working, for sure.
KD: And it's one of those things that we also have to give ourselves that type of space from the things that we do. It makes us better musicians, it makes us better daughters, and sons, it makes us better moms, and things like that or better people in regards to giving that space to our art.
Now, one of the things that you mentioned earlier is the idea of applying for funding. In music school, the main focus is that they tell you “Okay, you gotta be practicing 10 hours a day, you can sleep at school. That's okay. Just make sure that there's a piece of paper in front of the window when you're in practice.” I'm sure you remember those days.
Oh, yeah. But at the same time, do you feel like, in a sense, that the skills that you've acquired, how important it is to do writing or to be able to acquire these types of skills?
RS: Yeah, I think the conservatoires, I do see it a bit more now. They're on a little bit of a learning curve. I found that locking yourself in a windowless room for 10 hours is definitely still a school of study that a lot of people are doing. I do find them encouraging more the kind of industry stuff. Like RNCM, for example, has a projects week where you have to take on an independent project, and it's a whole module where you're organizing either your own event or it's your own kind of research, something that's really more encouraging than freelance creativity.
So I am seeing that more. I was fortunate that my master's actually was quite free in that you, apart from your principal instrument, which even then the recital was completely free to program whatever you wanted. So even at my recital, I had a drag queen in it, and I had four costume changes.
And so I was a jester running around for the first piece. I was a caterpillar. At one point, we did like Alice in Wonderland with the drag queen as Alice. At one point, I came out in a ball gown just for contrast, I just played a standard piece of classical work and such. So I think there is a lot of freedom there, but it's really dependent on the tutors you get.
And that's what I've found in terms of how much the conservatoire or music college education is preparing you for maybe working in the real world and applying for this funding. All of this, it does depend on the tutor and their experience because some of them still are very, "You do your practice, you audition, you get an orchestral seat and that should be the only kind of route."
I think especially the funding part was something I don't think I was told about at all at college, really. I got some experience in it because obviously a lot of music colleges have scholarship funds and bursary funds or instrument costs. So you get some experience applying for funding. So I had a grant to buy a tenor saxophone when I was in my undergrad.
So that was a whole funding thing I had to do for that. And then for my master's, I had to apply for a bursary fund from the college. So I had a little bit, but they don't tell you just actually how much funding there is out there in the general world to do these independent projects. So then you kind of get out and you're like, oh wow, there is this great funding body that will just pay me thousands of pounds to do this wacky random idea that I've come up with, and no one kind of really tells you that.
So when you discover it, it's amazing. You're like “Why did no one tell me this sooner?” So I think that's the one area where they could start to have modules that are more in kind of like, well, if you're not going to be this very strict orchestral musician, where can you go? And how can you get there? I think that's a little bit missing from music colleges, in my opinion, at the moment. But some of them are getting there, as I said, with what they're offering.
KD: No, for sure. And I think, with a lot of the things you've mentioned, having been in the fire and trying to figure it out, I definitely have been there with you. I mean, I'm much older, and at least when I was in my undergraduate studies, no one told me that I had to learn how to write a biography. It can sometimes be so self-serving because you have to make yourself not only sound awesome, but you also have to outline your accomplishments in a way that sometimes makes you feel like you did all of that, right? It seems, though, in regards to your journey and all the things you've done, that you've been really aware of the possibilities.
And yeah, I mean, the hard part is that sometimes, even today, there are some places that say, "Okay, the only word that you have as a human being, if you have any." I know we're laughing about this right now.
RS: It is so true though.
KD: You can't play Mozart and then get out, like if you can't play Brahms, why are you doing it? What are you doing? You must quit now, right?
RS: Oh, yeah. I've had a teacher once, like, fully, I was playing Brahms, and I played a wrong note, and they went in at me like I did it on purpose. They could not fathom that I might just hit a wrong note in Brahms because, in their head, it was like, why would you do that? What was your why? And I was like, it wasn't on purpose. I convinced them that I just hit the wrong note as humans do. But you're right. Yeah, you can put a lot of pressure on doing that.
KD: But at the same time, being able to have the freedom, this idea of creativity, and not only just saying, "Okay, yes, let's learn the standard repertoire," but what other repertoire is out there? And being able to make discoveries of not only different composers by male, female, LGBT, and pop composers but also discoveries of different countries. And being able to bring those to the fore now in regards to the different approaches that you take with your students. It sounds like you've gone through quite a lot and made lots of great discoveries not only after graduation but also with the different activities that you have in the UK. How do you integrate those with your students or try to teach those values that you've developed over your career? I think with teaching, it's just so important that you listen to them.
RS: I think it's never trying to guide them in what you think is gonna be the right direction for what they want to learn. If you listen to them, they'll often tell you exactly where they want to be and what they want to learn, and then you tell them how to get there. And I think, oh, my brain's just gone. What was I gonna say when I was at Marlborough, which was actually a big private school in Malaysia.
So that's where I got a lot of my initial teaching experience, kind of straight out of my undergrad degree, where I was working with ages three because they had a nursery right up to 19, and I was only 21 myself. So it was kind of a big age range and it was all kind of sudden, like here you go, here's hundreds of students that you're gonna be working with day in, day out, and you quickly realize how you need to, as a teacher, adjust your approach to get the best from a student and find out what they want to do. So at the moment, at Music Shed where I teach mostly, I've got some students who thrive on grades, they thrive on academic success, they want that distinction, they want that mark. And that's brilliant. That's what motivates them. And so, I say, great, this is how we get a bladder.
And I've got others who just come in one day and say, "I've heard this song. It sounds great. I want to learn it." And that's also brilliant. Then you talk about how you learned that. For a lot of my students, I'll usually write the music they learn. So if they want to learn a pop song, I will take that pop song and write it at a difficulty level that is going to push them but still be in the realm of playability. And I think that's really worked for the teaching, and it makes the lesson so much more fun for me. There's only so much I can teach like grade one clarinet with the same six pieces until you just want to throw the book out the window. I love "Stranger on the Shore." It's a brilliant piece. But I think, you know, "Penny Lane" is also fun.
It's only so many times. And so it's great to actually have that variety of students. At the Music Shed, I also run rock bands. I absolutely love doing that. It's something so completely different. They walk in, and I've got this little seven-year-old on piano who wants to play Nirvana, and that's great. I love it. I absolutely love it. So I think that's the main thing, just encourage following the student's journey and not trying to push it where you want it to go.
And it's good that I can now tell them about all these little funding secrets I've found. There's a youth music fund in the UK, which you can get from age 16. So I've got some teenagers, and I'm like, "Look, there's a big pile of money you can get if you really want it, and they'll pay you to go do this idea you've had." So it's great to also share that with them.
KD: No, and I think that's really important too, especially within the climate of our industry. It's gotten better. We can only hope that it gets better. I know a lot of the time we try to force change, and yeah, we want change to happen. But the thing is, in order for change to be universally accepted, a lot of the time, it just takes time for people to integrate it, to understand it. Because a lot of the time, for example, combining different elements in such a way, for example, your show taking these things that you're passionate about, but then having audiences either love it or the ones that don't understand it being negative towards it.
That's the thing, it's one of those things, like when we think about our culture, a lot of the time, when we think about misunderstandings, when we think about fear, a lot of the time, when we don't understand something, we fear it. Have you ever encountered, within your development, in regards to what led you to this point?
RS: Yeah, I think a little bit. I actually just did a recital at a church in Jersey, and I knew what the audience would be like, with a lot of churchgoers, mostly of an older age. They do a concert series, and they used to. For example, there was a choir performing, and they were doing Handel and Mozart's very classic pieces. And they asked me to come play, and I was like, "Do you know what kind of music I play?"
Like, have you checked that? And I should say the response for that was brilliant. Lots of them were super on board. I came in, I think I played "Paint It Black" but on the bass clarinet. So it was like the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," but this super virtuosic arrangement of it. But I did have a few from that.
Who afterwards, what did they say? They said, "Oh, I've never heard anything like it," which, whether they mean that positively or negatively, I actually quite like hearing after a performance because I think it's great, whether you liked it or not, I've introduced you to a new sound world or something you didn't know that existed before, whether that's better or for worse for that person.
So I did get a few of them who were quite taken aback by it. They said, "Oh, yeah, I've just never heard that before." I was like. But then some of them absolutely loved it. So for those that loved it, that's great. And for those that didn't, it's not their cup of tea, and they can just not listen to me again, and that's absolutely fine as well.
I think there's enough people and space in the world to not need everyone to be in your specific genre or specifically what you're doing. and then obviously the show, I actually did, the drag show did get that like a little bit of feedback online, of negativity, but I also had overwhelming positivity from it as well. So you just got to balance it up and even the negativity that did come, actually wasn't in response to what I did and was more in response to who I was.
And as you say, the general industry stuff, it was more just the fact that I was doing something new that seemed to offend them rather than actually the quality of what I created. So, at that point, it's kind of like, oh, well, there's no point reasoning with that because that's just illogical. and if it's not your thing, great, don't participate. But I'm gonna keep doing what I do with the people that do like it, they get to hear more new wacky things.
KD: I love it, and the fact that you're so resilient in regards to being able to understand the difference between this positivity and the negativity that does come your way, that you're able to not listen to it, to just go on your path and, you know, even if it's like negativity can sometimes be overwhelming because even for example, right now, I'm in my mid-thirties.
RS: You don't look at it. You're all good. I thought you were about my age. So I was really surprised when you said you were much older.
KD: No, but you're establishing your career in the UK with a lot of students under your supervision. But at the same time, one of the questions I have is, when you encourage, for example, for our audience, when you talk to like 18 or 19-year-olds who are just entering the conservatory, who are really green to the industry. I know we're smiling right now.
RS: Oh, yeah, it's more of an awkward smile, like we're really green, we're just focused on our instrument.
KD: Like we have no idea of what's going to happen. What types of advice would you give those people as they enter and they're going into this new world of creativity?
RS: So, I did, I think the teenagers I'm working with at the moment, they seem to be actually a bit wised up. I don't know if that's just the UK. They seem to be more aware than I was when I was that age because I've had to do some teaching at RNCM, now Royal Northern, which is brilliant for their young artist scheme. And so I had a few of them, kind of 17, 18, and they're actually going on to study at RNCM next year as undergrads. I did have a couple of them come up to me who were so concerned about women in music, and they already kind of knew they were going to be outnumbered. They were going to, like, even just because they were looking at pop music as well. And for instrumentalists in pop, it was a bass player. He was just like, "I don't know if I want to be in such a male-dominated environment," and to have someone actually that young come up to you.
I was like, "Wow, you guys are paying attention to what's going on." And I just tried to reassure them that there was a positive change in the industry, that everything was moving in the correct direction, even if sometimes it felt like it was moved backward. The general opinions, in my opinion, are going the right way, and occasionally you'll get knocked, and there'll be something that really puts you back.
But overall, we're moving in the right direction, and the best thing you can do as an artist is just be visible. So if you're visible, anyone that argues that we don't need this change, it then becomes like, well, we do because look at this, this, this, and this. So if you as an artist just do your thing, go out there, and be visible. Also, I'd say for teenagers, I often try to remind them that with critique, you get critiqued a lot at music college, and that is one of the things that can really actually knock you down. I've known some brilliant players that unfortunately the nature of music college has just taken a lot of their fire out of them. So I've always thought with critiques, the best thing you can do is just listen to the critique, assess it yourself, and then decide how you're gonna change. Don't take every critique as gospel.
Well, now you have to do it this way, or you have to play it like that, or you have to make it like this, go well, that's their opinion. I'm gonna try that. I'm gonna try it my way, and I'm gonna decide actually which I prefer. And not only is that gonna make you a more rounded artist because it means you've actually considered all these options, so you're gonna be aware of them, but you're gonna be so much more confident going through everything. And just when you graduate, you're so much more secure in what you do, how you play, and then as you say, when you get these criticisms, it's then so easy to just be like, "OK, cool. I've listened to that. I've taken it on board. I've decided I don't agree with that, and I'm gonna carry on." Or sometimes, someone critiques me, I go, you know, actually, I've thought about that, and you're completely right. I should have done that. That would have been better, and I'm going to do that from now on.
So, yeah, that's what I'm kind of inviting the teenagers I'm working with at the moment, and I'm thankful to say that they seem to be growing in confidence a little bit. I just hope that when they go to RNCM, they will keep going and really thrive off it. Because they're really phenomenal players, it's just a confidence thing.
KD: Yeah, for sure. One of the things that you mentioned earlier is that when we think about the role of teachers I feel like sometimes gets overlooked, right? Because sometimes we have people who teach because they need money but really don't put their heart into it, or let alone care about the development of that particular individual because either way, that person gets paid no matter what, right?
So whether that person is successful in their endeavor or whether that person is a complete and total failure, right? So when we think about those things, the role of a teacher is so important, especially within the industry, especially with mentors, not even just teachers, but mentors that we encounter in our lives that inspire us, that actually make us passionate or are able to invoke that passion within our souls, to be able to pursue this type of career that at times can be scary, that is unpredictable, that can be amazing at the same time. It's kind of like going on those roller coasters. Have you been on those? Like, when you go up, you're approaching the hill going up, and you're just waiting for it, and you're waiting, and then you go down, and it's just like this crazy ride.
RS: My first year of my master's was mostly online. Thanks to good old COVID, and I've hung up on teachers because I've just been over it. But I've also had some brilliant teachers. You're right. It is like a roller coaster, especially if you have multiple teachers. You'll have one that one day will tell you something, and you're like, "I've made a breakthrough."
This is brilliant. I finally sussed it, and then the next day I'll have one that's just like, "You sound rubbish, like doing so well." And yeah, it is. It is definitely a roller coaster, right. I think if you can keep that mindset and get through it, then you'll get the wonderful benefits of it. Be right. I think how conservatories in the UK hire teachers is basically you have to have played in a major orchestra, which I fully do understand from that mindset of making sure you're a capable player, but they don't always assess whether they're a capable teacher, which is the kind of big thing. They'll just be like, "Oh, we've got them because they're principal this, this and this," it's like, that's amazing. But do they know how to teach or are they just a naturally amazing player? And they have no idea how to explain why they're amazing.
KD: So you end up with a massive and that's the thing, and that's part of the reason why it's so important, drawing on a point that you mentioned earlier that we have this diversity. It's not even just for the sake of having a sustainable career, but this diversity and actually being able to explore the unlimited possibilities of music and how it's not just this one path and that we do have the capacity of taking different paths in our lives now, which actually brings me to another point of what you mentioned, this idea of visibility, right? Yeah, a lot of people say sometimes they are really shy with social media. Could you tell our listeners in regards to what took you to the point where you know how visible you are today in regards to the work that you currently do?
RS: That's a good question. Because I don't think it was like there was ever a sudden decision moment with it. I think I just was slowly dialing up my use of social media over time. I think it started with actually just putting the odd video on YouTube. I think that was it. It was when I was living in Malaysia, and obviously, I missed my family and friends. I actually used to have these, I don't know, I really loved my job but I had some really dull ones at times, like cleaning the trombones or just like, really, well, like, fine, and I'd often do these at the weekends, and to make it interesting on the weekend, it was, I had to fix all the saxophones. I was like, I know I'll fix all the saxophones and to check they're fixed, I'll record a multitrack of myself performing. I did like a song from Chicago. And that kind of took off.
But then I was like “Okay, people actually enjoyed that” and then I think over lockdown, obviously the use of social media just got higher and higher because I wasn't able to go out. I just increased it slowly over time until it reached a point where I was like “Okay, I'm confident in what I'm doing now” And I've actually been pretty fortunate to not have much backlash really with my use of social media. Yeah, I don't think I have any good advice on it. I think just start slowly. I think you don't have to go in immediately. Especially now, I'm a bit old school. I'm very into YouTube and Facebook where, as I know nowadays, there are loads of musicians on TikTok and even Instagram, and people are making big gains on that.
And actually, I don't know anything about that. I have them, but I don't really know how to use them. I think my drag account is on Instagram, but I actually have a friend who helps me with that, who's very good with Instagram usage. But I'd say with social media, don't get too lost in it, would actually be my main advice. Really. I think if you want to put a piece of content out there, brilliant, make the content, put it out there, and then don't worry too much about what comes in from that.
You obviously need to kind of check the feedback and make sure there's nothing too like, "Oh, I've made a grave error on it." So you've got to kind of immediately get rid of it, which I thankfully never done, but just put your content out there, see the feedback you get, and based on that, make a decision on where you go next. I wouldn't jump straight into social media, really. It's not massively my thing. I think I just kind of do it and hope for the best.
KD: No. And the thing is I feel like, what if you're genuine and authentic about what you want to communicate with people? I find that connecting with those audiences makes it a lot easier because, when we think about the industry today, there's always that filter, even whether it's like the photo filters that we have or even this filter that we want to demonstrate, right?
Because a lot of the time we want to demonstrate the best version of ourselves. Now, if people saw me, what I looked like when I woke up in the morning, that is not the best version of myself, definitely for sure. And that is not something that I would want to share or maybe you would want to share with the whole world, right? In regards to those moments when we're at our most vulnerable, right?
And the thing is, what I love about your work is the fact that you're making it so that you share not only the things that you're passionate about, but also allowing vulnerability to play in that sense of showing that most authentic version, genuine version of your work and whether it resonates with people, great, if not, then that's OK too.
RS: I think you've actually put into words why I don't find social media difficult. I don't think I could put it into words, but you have. It's because I'm just being myself, doing my thing, putting it out there. And what happens, you’re right. If you're authentic and you're sharing the message you have to share, then there's not much to worry about.
You know, I think you've actually put into words why I don't find social media difficult. I don't think I could articulate it, but you have. It's because I'm just being myself, doing my thing, putting it out there. And what happens happens. If you're authentic and you're sharing the message you have to share, then there's not much to worry about.
And I think you've just got that sued with how you said that because that is true. A lot of people try to put on a persona and have a social media presence that isn't anything like what they are in real life. And I think that's when it can get difficult. But if you're just sharing what you do, then there's not too much negativity that can come from it.
KD: No, for sure. And I think, with everything that you've mentioned, what type of advice would you give to people who may be young professionals like us? I put my right because we're both very young.
RS: Yes, I'm great because I can pass for like a 12-year-old boy at times. I literally go to the airport. Someone asked me if I was over the age of 16. But I'm nearly 25.
KD: Like, you know, for people who feel like they're struggling, whether they just graduated their undergrad, or they just graduated their master's, or even if they are professionals trying to find a path, what advice would you give to those people?
RS: I think that biggest advice that I've given to a lot of people now. So if any of my students listen to this, they'll be like “Oh, I heard this before.” Don't compare yourself to other people. It cannot be said enough about how much energy you waste, looking at everyone around you, what they're doing, how they're doing, and then worrying. Oh, but I need to be doing that or I need to be doing it like that.
Don't do that. Put it out of your head because you waste so much energy doing that that you can just put into yourself and just think what do you wanna do? And how do you want to get there? And I think especially because you mentioned social media, that's like a big thing when I'm going around music college now and I'm a graduate and I'm talking to current students.
You always get that. Oh, I just thought you did this amazing job. How did you get that? What did you do? Like all they want to know is how people have got somewhere and how they can do it. And I'm like, don't worry about anyone else. Like, if you're asking for a reason “Oh, I genuinely don't know how to get jobs in musical theater, for example, which pit jobs are insane because you don't apply for them.”
It's all networking. You just have to know the right person who one day you get a message and it's like, oh, I need a clarinet for this, and then boom, you've got the job. So I understand there's a mystery to that one, but often, like I'm on a debt list for a few shows and I never get kind of just a, oh, that's amazing. That's really cool. Like the first thing I get is, well, how, how, how did that happen?
It's all networking. You just have to know the right person one day you get a message and it's like “Oh, I need a clarinet for this” and then boom, you've got the job. So I understand there's a mystery to that one, but often, like I'm on a debt list for a few shows and I never get kind of just “Oh, that's amazing.” That's really cool. The first thing I get is “How did that happen?”
How have you done that? And it, you know what I mean? It's, don't worry about what I'm doing, worry about what you're doing. So, I think that's my big advice. Don't compare yourself. Just think “What do you enjoy doing?” “What do you enjoy playing?” And, how can you make a living out of that and then try to get the steps between where you are now and where you want to be. And also don't worry about the timeline. That's the other thing.
Everyone's gonna move at their own pace. Everyone's gonna have different stuff that crops up in their lives. Some people are gonna be like a bullet and go straight to this point. But then might get stuck or other people are gonna take their time and eventually find their way. So, yeah, just take your time, don't prepare yourself and things, things will work out.
KD: No, this is amazing advice. I think this is really useful in the sense that it's the stuff that we've gone through, it's not just you or at some point in the world we were lost in regards to finding our path.
And I think this is really great, and I think we're going to leave on that note, Robin. Thank you for joining us today and for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing the amazing things that you continue to do for our community.
RS: Thank you so much for having me.
Kristine Dizon is a multi-faceted performer, teacher, writer, author, linguist, and entrepreneur. She is Founder & CEO of the Music & Language Learning Center, The Modern Artist Project and co-founder of the Gran Canaria International Clarinet Festival and American Single Reed Summit. She is an artist for Uebel Clarinets and Silverstein Works. Learn more at www.kristinedizon.com.