Robin James
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Copyright ©2005-2006 Robin James

So how did a brainy girl from a nice family on the north shore of Long Island who studied classical, folk and flamenco guitar end up belting out torch songs and ballads in clubs on West 47th Street? It's a long way from Quaker high school and Seven Sisters graduate to cabaret chanteuse, but no one ever said life should be predictable.

Several years ago, my friend Barbara Zucker invited me to hear her perform in one of Helen Baldassare's cabaret workshops. A woman in that class, a shy Japanese woman of a certain age in a pink chiffon dress, sang 'When You Wish Upon A Star' and brought me to tears. I knew then that I had to sing cabaret - it provides a unique opportunity to share one's view of the world and, hopefully, bring both insight and pleasure to others. It also causes profound consternation for my two teenagers, who find all this frightfully embarrassing.

My first starring role was Snow White, in the 4th grade musical. I didn't know at the time that I got the role at least in part because the director (Broadway lyricist Susan Birkenhead, in an earlier lifetime!) thought my lisp sounded cute. The lisp was "cured" a few weeks later by the speech teacher, but the love of theatre wasn't. I sang and acted in a number of shows at Friends Academy under the inspired direction of Joe Servello, including Threepenny Opera, Under Milkwood, Ondine, West Side Story and The Madwoman of Chaillot. (As a high school senior, it was a blow to my pride to lose the role of Maria in West Side Story to Penny Mealing, a freshman... who went on to become a 7-time Star Search winner.)

At Bryn Mawr College, I majored in French and sang in two choruses under Tamara Brooks. Junior year, in Strasbourg, France, I joined a local French chorus and was the soprano soloist in a Charpentier mass that we performed at Wissembourg Cathedral. After graduation, I studied voice with Adele Addison at the Aspen Music Festival, where I realized that although I dearly loved to sing, the profession was inimical to raising a family and was not going to be "the day job."

After a one-week stint as a bilingual secretary at Lancôme, I moved to publishing and then to consulting. I have worked in business development and account management at four global consulting firms for the past 25 years, and I actually find excuses to use my French almost every day - one of the joys of living in New York City.

I've sung in, and been a soloist with, several New York choruses over the past 25 years. These have included Canticum Novum (Harold Rosenbaum, conductor), the New York Choral Society Chamber Singers (Bob DeCormier and Jack Goodwin) and the New Amsterdam Singers (Clara Longstreth), with whom I went on a singing tour to Russia, Estonia and Latvia in summer 2005.

My family has been a source of love and encouragement (and material, after all, bless their quirky hearts). My parents and 97-year old grandmother live nearby, and are a constant in my life and my children's lives. Falling in love again at the tender age of 49 has made it harder to sing the sad ("he done me wrong") love songs, but this is a nice problem to have. And I am blessed with friends who tell me what they think but love me anyway.

For my first two shows, I was so lucky to benefit from the support, coaching and talent of Dick Gallagher, my musical director. He is sorely missed. Helen Baldassare taught me about phrasing and interpretation, and David Brunetti and Scott Barnes have helped me discover and convey the essence of the songs in my most recent show - my thanks to all these artists. Other musical influences in my life have been as varied as Theodore Bikel and Pete Seeger, Edith Piaf and Danny Kaye, as well as the perceptive and witty writing of Marcy Heisler and Lorraine Feather.

Thank you for visiting my website. I hope you will be able to come to one of my shows, and invite you to listen to a few tracks from one of my CDs. Please send me an email and tell me what you think!