Robin is a member of Foothills Music Teachers Association and has served as Second Vice President of Membership for the past 7 years. She is the association’s one-man initial greeting committee for new members and is very active in this role.
Robin recognizes the kind and generous instruction she received in developing her many talents in the world she loves…music. Now, she brings these exquisite talents to the Denver Metropolitan Community through her performances and teaching. Young students enjoy the talents of this fine teacher as she helps them find their own expressions as musicians. The following Bio is an in-depth look at one of our wonderful educators and entertainers. Enjoy!
I grew up on a Cattle Ranch West of Denver and could ride a horse before I could walk. We had 200 cattle, 2 milk cows, 9 horses and a bunch of chickens. We even had a duck, a rabbit and of course dogs and cats. Yes, I can milk a cow by hand, although it’s been more than a couple of years. We still have the ranch and still put up hay, run cattle and even keep a horse or two around.
I did not attend Kindergarten, but did attend 1st grade in a two room school house with about 25 kids. The school was closed after my first year so I attended Red Rocks Elementary for the next 5 years and wondered why I had to look at those stupid rocks all day – out of the mouths of babes. In retrospect, I can’t believe how lucky I was! I started playing trumpet in 4th grade and loved it so much that my band teacher arranged an audition for the symphonic (highest) band when I went to middle school. I remember the first day of school. I had to audition for my seat and was thrilled to think I wouldn’t get last chair. I ended up getting 3rd chair out of 14 or 15 kinds. Woohoo! I was sitting next to a boy who grow up to play with Maynard Ferguson, Tom Jones, and Luis Migeuel. The first trumpet player is now a well-known New Age Piano Artist.
When at Evergreen Jr High School I received my first guitar and took a guitar class taught by the band and choir teachers. I think they actually gave up their break time to include this class. I am still thankful for that opportunity. I was equally lucky to have the opportunity to run warmups for the lower bands while the band teacher grabbed a quick lunch. Wow, did I learn a lot in that short 5 or 10 minutes each day!
The choir teacher, after hearing me sing while crashing through guitar chords, took me under her wing and put in a good word for me to be in the top choir in High School. The choir director put me next to a girl who was a tremendous mentor. By that time I was musically bi-polar. I couldn’t decide whether I loved voice or trumpet more. The malady continues to this day, although I must say that the trumpet has been much kinder to me professionally. As Evergreen High School was on split session, I was able to get my fill of both choir and band classes…and still do my homework at school. I would leave home at about 6:15 am and would generally not get home until about 6:15 pm. During those years I discovered Ella Fitgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry, Miles Davis, Phil Woods, Chick Corea, and of course Chuck Mangione. I loved my jazz!! I did quite a few gigs during high school, but not jazz. Most of my gigs were singing folk songs and playing guitar. Many of the performances were for the Mountain Area Rendezvous, Jefferson County Historical Society, a couple of Silver Teas and many other random gigs including weddings and funerals and parties. I even came in first in state and represented Colorado in a National Grange competition held in Greensboro, North Carolina. That was my first solo trip on a plane. My connecting flight was through O’hare. Trial by fire I say.
At that competition I had to draw a number out of a hat to determine when we would perform. Lo and behold. I drew No.1. That was a first and a last. I did not come in number one. I did however get honorable mention.
I was thankful to win a scholarship to the Jamey Aebersold summer jazz camp in Greeley between my senior year of high school and college. I received a generous scholarship to College of Santa Fe and started as a trumpet major. They dangled the carrot of retired Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey band members under the name of Rio Grand Flyway as the jazz band that I would play with and learn from. Apparently, the jazz professor had a falling out with said band, so I never did see the whites of their eyes. Trumpet instruction was minimal at best. However, I had a lovely voice teacher who I learned so much from. Our choir, called Collegium Musicum, included many chorus members from the Santa Fe Opera! Ding, ding, ding Jackpot! Whereas I learned virtually nothing on trumpet, I made great strides vocally and was even able to get a nice writeup in the Santa Fe Paper for a play I appeared in. Our theater was endowed by Greer Garson, who came to the play and sent each of the cast a rose. So, …I can say that Greer Garson gave me a rose.
I knew after the first month at Santa Fe that I would have to transfer to University of Northern Colorado if I wanted to achieve my goals. Unfortunately, that move could not take place until the next year as Santa Fe was on Semesters and UNC was on trimesters. I chose my classes carefully and managed to have all credits transfer. I landed at UNC as a sophomore and lived in an old rundown Victorian house owned by the head of the jazz department. It was called the Low Brass House. There were 3 Trombone players on the second floor. Three of us girls that played trumpet were on the first floor, and a pot smoking French Horn player in the basement. Her apartment was under my bedroom and the smoke would seep up through the vent in the floor. My poor Half Moon Parrot got so stoned one night that he fell off his perch. Needless to say, he went back home to the ranch to live. That was an amazing year, as Todd Buffa of local vocal jazz quartet Rare Silk lived downstairs as well. He would knock on my door sometimes looking for popcorn, or sometimes because he had a fabulous recording to share with me! I remember sitting in his candle-lit apartment listening to any number of fabulous jazz vocalists.
I transferred to UNC as a voice major, but by the second semester my trumpet professor had talked me into again, declaring trumpet as my major. I continued to split my time between trumpet and voice and by the time I hit senior year, I added piano. All I really wanted to be was Ella Fitzgerald. I loved my Vocal Jazz Ensemble and was very proud to be a part of the famed UNC Vocal Jazz quartet. I even founded a Vocal Jazz quartet II. I always sat solo seat in the jazz band and loved improvising on trumpet.
I graduated in August, which enabled me to attend one last Jamie Aebersold camp and work on my Jazz. The last one was comped at the urging of Jerry Coker’s wife Patty who was on vocal staff. Being a bit of a workaholic, I always took 20-23 credit hours per quarter. Spanish was my minor and one of my favorite professors got me involved in the Las Posadas Celebration. She even created a scholarship for me, because I would rehearse everyone on the songs in the evenings so she could spend time with her young daughters. Most of my senior recital on trumpet was baroque music. I still have an affinity for baroque music to this day, and love playing Easter and other church gigs on trumpet
After graduation, I took classes at JF Images and did some projects for JF Images and Vannoy talent agencies. Some of these projects included voice overs. I did a series of commercials at KHIH studios in the early 90s. One day I was just coming down the steep stairs from the recording studio with the client. A very tall and distinguished gentleman was heading up the stairs. He bumped into me and nearly knocked me over. He graciously caught me and apologized profusely. As we walked out the door, my client said “You know that was Charlton Heston don’t you?” “NO it wasn’t I replied” Well, when I got in my car the station was obviously tuned to KHIH and lo and behold…it was Charlton Heston doing an interview. Talk about brushes with greatness!
Right after graduation, I worked for Kelly Girls and Talent Tree just doing temp work until one day I went into Rockley’s and asked if they needed help. Nina Rockley created a job for me. I became the floater as I knew just enough about most of the departments to be able to help out when the heads of those departments had a day off. Jack of all, master of none! I even helped Johnny the book keeper with bookkeeping for instrument rentals. As you all know Rockleys had teaching studios. Among the teachers, were two of the trumpet players with the (then) Denver Symphony Orchestra. One of those teachers was a woman trumpet player. She was paged to the phone and I heard her say “No, but I do know another woman trumpet player.” She then paged me.
It was a Mariachi band named Latin Fantasies. I will never forget, they were looking for a woman trumpet player for a gig on Friday (my day off). It was Wednesday, so after work, I high-tailed it to a restaurant named La Bonita on Colfax and Quebec, It was legendary in the Latin community for great Salsa music. I auditioned and they hired me. My first gig was in Greeley, and it was atrocious! The first trumpet player was not good and neither was I. Said trumpet player tried to pull her tuning slide out so she didn’t have to play in sharp keys. Yikes!! It wasn’t long before she was gone and I took over duties of first trumpet. We worked at a place called St Miguel’s in Boulder on Friday nights to gel as a group. I played some guitar and sang as well. My worst night there was when I flicked my pick into some poor guys Margarita. Yes…. I replaced it. Soon after, with a new and improved second trumpet player we auditioned for Casa Bonita. We got the gig! We rehearsed 2 nights a week at the Denver Musicians Union when it was down on Bannock. One night I came out to a guy breaking into my car. I started chasing him, he turned and pointed a gun at me. He actually pulled the trigger. Clearly he missed me, but he got his point across. Scared the hell out of me! In the meantime he dropped the bag that he had stolen from my car. That bag contained my Zodiac boots and my own 22 pistol that I shot blanks from after the march up to the Plaza at Casa Bonita at the top of the hour.
The band played there for over 20 years. However, I only played there for about 6 years. We worked 21 hours a week in addition to my 40 hour a week job at Rockleys. During those years we did many outside gigs, including a program for schools called “More Salsa Please.” We were funded by Young Audiences and MPTF. We even did a week-long tour of schools in Southern Arizona.
In about 1987 or so I even met Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands while doing a gig in Estes Park. Apparently he was intrigued by my light skin and light hair. He kept chasing me around saying I know you’re not from Mexico. Haha. He was not well dressed and kept insisting we play a song called El Rey (The King) We completely ignored him until we got the memo that he was the prince and the party was in his honor. Woops!! I also got to meet Trini Lopez who could not have been nicer to me. After I left Latin Fantasies I never imagined I would continue being a Mariachi, but continue I did with a lovely husband and wife team that changed their name to Trio Bueno when I was with them. After they moved to Hawaii I was snapped up by Mariachi San Juan de Colorado. The leader, who came from Southern California, had worked at Disneyland before moving to Colorado. I am still in touch with all three groups, but haven’t done much mariachi music in nearly 20 years. I still have a love for those romantic ballads and the trio style that is indicative of the South of Mexico. It was a good training ground and I learned to play in sharp keys and on the fly. They even did their ballads in A (they called it La.. which put me in Si. Yes they called B Si not Ti) I learned a lot about the music and the culture and could make up an ending or an intro to any ranchera or corido. I found out many years later that I became a Mariachi because the guys vowed never to play with the drunken mariachi that I replaced. The last straw was when he walked in the door a little drunk and threw his coat on the wedding cake. You never know what crazy door may open!
I went to work for EF Hutton as a margin credit analyst after leaving Rockley’s in the early 1980s. Las Vegas was among the many offices I worked with. Yes, one of the brokers had Liberace as a client! He had a big whopping $2000 in an IRA; clearly he did some baby broker a favor. I worked in the Margin Department until they moved it to Chicago at which point I was absorbed into the retail side and worked as a sales assistant. I was a sales assistant for 12 years with several different Brokerage Firms. My last several years were as an executive sales assistant at Prudential Securities, both downtown Denver and DTC, for the same guy who happens to be a musician as well! We were able to collaborate musically as a group called Zuri. We played Dazzle several times and I have fond memories of those gigs.
In the mid 80’s I had the opportunity to be a presenter at NAJE National Association of Jazz Educators (now IAJE) at their convention in Orange County, CA. The name of the program was Kids and all that Jazz. It was about integrating rhythm and Scat singing into the regular classroom to help with memorization.
In 1995 I recorded my first Jazz CD named Arlington 1:00 am. It was truly a labor of love. It was submitted for a Grammy the same year. It got a fair amount of play around the nation including New York and even in Europe. I did a second project in 1998 called Fiery Embrace. The majority of songs were written by me with the help of my dear friend Chuck Petterson. It too, was submitted for a Grammy. I did not track its success, but am fairly proud of the quality of both CDs. The secret is to get the best musicians you can, and boy did I ever! Eric Gunnison on Piano, Mark Deabs Simon on Bass, and Paul Romaine and Mike Marlier on drums. Chuck Sneider did some Saxophone tracks and Dick Meiss played some Steel guitar on one of my tracks. I am a lucky, lucky girl!
In 1996, I got a call from a lady with Cherry Creek Schools. She asked if I was available for a couple of mornings a week for a couple of months to teach beginning trumpet players to get them up to speed with the rest of the band. That only lasted maybe 3 weeks and she told me that she didn’t need me anymore. No further info was given. I was crushed. Just before Christmas she called me and said she was having a Christmas concert and hoped that I would attend, and the boys would be happy to see me. Hmm????... I did attend and took pictures, which I sent to her. I heard from her again in April or May. She simply said, “you need to come to our spring concert”. I did. The next thing I know she says to me, “You need to apply for the position as coordinator for the East side of the district” What???, I had no idea what it would entail. I took her to lunch to get a better idea of the scope of the job. At that point I asked her why me? She said there were two idiots that wanted it and that she thought I would do a much better job. I also settled the riddle as to why I only taught for three weeks. Her comment was “You got the boys on track really fast, and I didn’t need you anymore.” We’re still friends to this day.
Long story short I coordinated the East side for 1 year and then moved to the West Side 16- 18 schools. In 2002, I took over the whole district which, as of Fall of 2021, will consist of 45 elementary schools. My title was coordinator of the elementary instrumental music program: band and orchestra. We did first and second year programs, some dedicated percussion classes and even a jazz band. I wrote arrangements to draw orchestra and band together for a big spring area concerts. That’s always a bit tricky because beginning bands play in flat keys and beginning orchestras play in sharp keys. I’m proud of my years with Cherry Creek. We brought music to lots of kids. I retired in November of 2020 as a result of the Covid 19 restrictions. I still miss my bands and all of my teachers. I consider them my extended family. I even miss my little choir. I, along with my colleague at Holly Hills in Cherry Creek, volunteered to teach a choir after school in a less than privileged community. The general music teacher there would not teach choir or do concerts. Some of the kids were a little rough, but they were so excited about choir and even performing for the Rockies opening weekend in 2019. I love the idea of thinking that we might have made a difference in their lives.
I have been teaching privately as time would permit since 1983. After I left Latin Fantasies and Casa Bonita I augmented my schedule at EF Hutton, and Prudential to include evening private lessons at Evergreen School of Music and the Logan School. I taught Danny Seraphin’s daughter for a short time at Evergreen Music. What a nice man. I even got to meet Tommy Lee Jones at the Logan School. All my kids were abuzz about him. They swore he was in the theatre, so I popped my head around the corner and low and behold came face to face with him. I even taught General music at The Logan School before they moved to Lowry. I was teaching at the Rockley studios during that time as well. Eventually I started to teach at Rockley Music only. I opened Lakewood School of Music in September of 2012 after fighting breast cancer. I love my time in the studio! Little did I know how much I would love teaching.
In 1996 I had the opportunity to work with Gina Oldenberg of Creative Expressions Center. Her goal was to make sure kids had an opportunity to perform in both dancing and singing. Her program actually started with an opportunity for kids to do break-dancing in malls. We had a space at Tiffany Plaza called Club Ought-to-See. It was a safe place for kids to perform and a place to be on Saturday nights. Things change. It is now a 24 hour fitness! My favorite show was Hooray for Hollywood. We had a wonderful choir and dancers as well as announcers and even a very talented juggler who went on to work at Disney and on Cruise ships. This was actually aired on KEZW and of course Rick Crandall was one of our MCs. I believe it also aired on KUSA. Gina and I have done many projects over the years and I am thrilled to still call her one of my dearest friends.
In the late 80s I started playing and singing for weddings. I was on staff at the Chapel at Red Rocks for several years and played as many as 75 weddings some years. I even played for Tommy Dorsey’s grandson’s wedding. I have seen his mother over the years as she is a good friend of the secretary at my old home school. It is truly a small world. I also had the opportunity to play a wedding with then guitar player, leader of the Saturday Night Live Band, GE Smith. He was the nicest man and so gracious!
In 2003 I landed a strange little gig singing the National Anthem every Tuesday Morning for Colorado Auto Auction. I would arrive in time to sing at 9:00 am. I’d grab the mic, throw my hand over my heart, and sing the national anthem. Sometimes I’d play it on trumpet if I had a cold. I’d hop down off the stand and book it out of there before the first car was auctioned off. They let me park really close, so my car was always parked in the line of fire. That lasted about 3 years until the manager moved to Colorado Springs and the new manager discontinued the tradition. I sure have a great appreciation for the auctioneers! That is an art of its own.
In the late 1990s I was working with Trio Bueno strolling Beaver Creek Plaza for a series that was one Friday each month for the summer. It was there that I met Helmut Fricker – The ambassador of good will and silly jokes for all of the Vail Valley. I tried his Alp Horn and liked it! I didn’t run into him again until September of 2000. I was in Vail for the West Fest and got bored. We showed up in Beaver Creek and low and behold, Helmut was on break having a German Beer. “Schatzi” he yelled, do you have your trumpet? It was in the trunk of my car, (that happened to be illegally parked at the Hyatt… thankfully, they didn’t tow me. I sat in with the band and the rest is history. It was the first annual Oktoberfest at Beaver Creek. Helmut’s band, the Rhinelanders were there. The leader asked for my card and called me 2 or 3 days later. He asked if I could make a gig the next Saturday as the sax player couldn’t be there. I thought he was nuts! I told him that I really don’t know polka music. Jerry told me it was a wedding and they would be doing a lot of American music. I finally agreed, saying “If you’re crazy enough to hire me, I’m crazy enough to give it a shot.” It’s been over 21 years now and we still have so much fun! We play for many local dances and festivals. We have played Kentucky, New Orleans many times, Vegas and Laughlin Nevada several times as well as Kansas, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Arizona; plus too many gigs to mention in Vail and Beaver Creek. We’ve played for Crocs, The Discovery Channel and Dish Network as well as Sam Adams Beer. We were featured in an episode of Top Chef filmed at Elitches entitled, “That’s a lot of Schnitzel.” We’ve filmed commercials and even played during Covid for the Breckenridge Brewery’s driveway tour. That was wild. We would drive up to a house on a trailer play, for 20 minutes, sing Ein Prosit, and do a toast before we would head off to the next house. We also play regularly for the military, and are on staff for Peterson Airforce Base. Vegas, New Orleans, The Rhine House in LoDo and Beaver Creek continue to be among my favorites!
In 2003 and again in 2006 The Rhinelanders released CDs. “Second Time Around” and “Across the Plains.” We even did pictures in a hot air balloon for the latter! That was complete with a 3:00 am wake up call to be in Eagle before the sun came up! It was windy and later rainy! We got the shot just in time! The hot air balloon was tied off to a truck and the front end of the truck started to come up off the ground just as we got out of the balloon. The owner got it deflated and we helped pack it up before the storm got too close.
In 2017 I started working with Danny Showers and his band. My first gig was at the Brown Palace! We work at a lot of country clubs, The DCPA, The Hyatt, Denver Athletic Club as well as Mt. Vernon. We traditionally play for the debutante ball at the Brown Palace in December. Although it is a much different band and much different music than the Rhinelanders, we too have a lot of fun!
I fill in playing piano bar and singing at the Denver Athletic Club on occasion as well as the Bistro in Evergreen every great once in awhile.
Who knows what the future holds? Any crazy door could open at any second!!