Chumbley performs at Carnegie Hall

Published 7:41 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

By Staff
Staff Report
From the Original Washington to the international stage, Robert Chumbley has gained a full-circle perspective of the performing arts.
Chumbley, 55, the former executive director of the Turnage Theaters Foundation, went from booking acts to being one.
Performing on the world’s biggest stages is hardly new to Chumbley. As a pianist, Chumbley’s concert appearances have taken him throughout Europe, Japan, the United States and Africa. He performed at the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton, among other noted venues and occasions.
It’s his recent appearance at Carnegie Hall that excites Chumbley the most.
“It was clearly the highlight of my performance career so far. I was so honored to be invited to participate and perform in celebration of the bicentennial of Chopin’s birth, an international event. I performed the ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Polonaise’ section of the concert. There is just something amazing about playing in New York at Carnegie Hall,” he said.
When asked about other career highlights, Chumbley said, “This is a tough one. … I’d say conducting the premieres of Michael Pink’s ‘Dracula’ in Atlanta and Norwegian National Opera in Oslo and a brilliant new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ in Cleveland. As a pianist, it would be performing the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize — winning composer Michael Colgrass’ piano concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra and Maestro Leonard Slatkin. As a composer, I would think the two ballet scores I wrote for the Atlanta Ballet, the piece I wrote for the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the performance of my opera 'Ordinary People’ at the Maryland Opera Studio are certainly highlights.
“Recent conducting engagements include the Piedmont Wind Symphony and the Chicago premiere of Paul Dresher’s new chamber opera, ‘The Tyrant,” of which the Chicago Tribune said, ‘In a Friday local premiere performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, John Duyker’s vocal lines and the Chicago Chamber Musicians, conducted by Robert Chumbley, interacted seamlessly throughout this gripping 70-minutes of drama.’”
Chumbley contends he has the unique ability to draw musical excellence and passion from himself and others.
“I have always performed and taught. … I had many wonderful students in Washington. I am grateful that my reputation as a musician and teacher has been rediscovered. Pianists and singers come from all over, New York, Boston, Texas … to work with me and I am loving it.
“I was lucky, I was afforded a great musical education by my musical parents. … This has helped me relate to students and other musicians. I believe I am still the youngest music student ever accepted to the North Carolina School of the Arts. I was 12, I spent my high-school years there. I graduated at 16 and won a national competition to study piano at the University of Texas and then finished up at the Juilliard School in New York. There, I studied piano with Adele Marcus, a legendary Russian teacher, composition with the great Roger Sessions and conducting with Leonard Bernstein.
“I studied all music and — influenced by Leonard Bernstein — I learned that all great music doesn’t have to be classical. So, I suppose my greatest strength is versatility. Though I’ll admit the works of the masters are still closest to my artistic heart. I wonder if folks recall the wonderful performance of the “Tchaikovsky Serenade” we did at the Turnage with the Carolina Chamber Symphony? I would be happy to return and perform, if invited, because I miss the time I spent there; the opening of the Turnage was exciting. … Main Street was exciting. … I really miss my friends, students, supporters and a special person with whom I wish I was sharing all these experiences.”
Now residing in his hometown of Miami, Chumbley is excited about new projects. “My new opera, ‘Hidden Jewel,’ will be produced in New York City and North Carolina, and a set of solo piano pieces I have been commissioned to compose will be played by various artists throughout the United States and Europe. I am considering other possibilities that include becoming the music director for a Las Vegas show, a PBS special and to compose an important independent film score,” he said.
Chumbley will give solo concerts of Chopin’s music in Miami, France and Portugal.
“Next year, I will give full, all Franz Liszt concerts — to celebrate the bicentennial of his birth — in London, Bordeaux, Monte Carlo, Lisbon and again at Carnegie Hall in New York.”