COM graduate receives research grant

Posted on: February 27, 2013

When composing, Chad Robinson views each piece as a blank sheet of paper with endless possibilities. With each note penned, he confidently removes those possibilities, one by one. 
 
This, he feels, is his calling. He was not always so sure of himself.
 
As a college freshman, Robinson enrolled at College of the Mainland without a career plan and with a tangential interest in music.
 
Unlike many musicians, the 28-year-old had never formally studied music before entering college, let alone learned to read it. Today he composes toccatas and concertos performed at King’s College in London, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in music composition and has received a grant to research music theory and new compositional techniques.

 “I really had no idea what I wanted to do,” Robinson said. “I took music courses because I like music, but who doesn’t?”
  
His marginal interest soon became consuming. Beginning with the treble clef, COM professor Paul Boyd taught him to read music and play the piano. Robinson discovered that he loved not just the sounds of music but the methods of creating it.
  
“By the time I had finished my work at COM, it became obvious that this is what I wanted and needed to do with my life. In the course of three short years [the faculty] brought me to a level where I could compete with students from universities throughout the world, and most began their studies when they were children,” he said.
  
Boyd attributes Robinson’s success to his potential—and hours spent plinking the keys to “catch up.”
  
“It was his drive, motivation and determination to do music in spite of all odds and people who told him he wouldn’t make any money,” Boyd said.
  
 After earning an associate’s degree at COM, Robinson enrolled in the University of Houston, studying with Scott Holshouser from the Houston Symphony and Marcus Karl Maroney. Boyd followed his progress and attended his senior recital, for which he composed several pieces, at the University of Houston.
 
“At his senior recital, I’ve never seen the hall that packed. His music was crossing bounds between popular and classical,” Boyd said.
 
Straddling the two spheres, Robinson doesn’t want his compositions constricted by either label.
  
“I don't want my music to be part of a larger category. It is only my music, so to speak,” Robinson said.
  
While creative, he approaches his compositions methodically.
  
“I always keep the listener in mind,” he said. “When you begin a work, you have a blank page that contains nothing but possibilities. With every note that you put down, you remove some of those possibilities. By the end of the work, the music should sound as though it had to be composed that way, that all other possibilities have been removed.“
  
With several award-winning compositions to his name, including winning first place at the Carnegie Mellon Orchestral Composition Competition for his piece “Relapse,” Robinson plans to finish his doctorate in summer 2013 and then teach and continue to compose. Now four thousand miles from Texas, he recognizes how far he has come, geographically and musically.
 
“I owe the faculty at COM everything. The faculty had prepared me for this even better than I knew at the time. What they are able to accomplish is truly remarkable and shows the caliber of instructors and of people who work within that department. They are absolutely stunning, and they work miracles,” said Robinson.
  
 To hear some of Robinson’s works, go to http://soundcloud.com/chad-allan-robinson.


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