Robinson gets Brazilian jazz experience with Lilly grant


For the second time in her career, Robinson earned a Lilly Endowment Teachers Creativity grant, receiving $12,000 to travel to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in June to meet and work with some of the most famous jazz musicians in the world. She met Brazilian Ivan Lins and Cuban Chucho Valdez, attended the Rio Montreux Jazz Festival and had a private lesson with Brazilian bassist Itibere Zwarg.

Robinson also attended a week-long Brazilian music workshop in New York City in late July before school began.

Robinson said the best part of the experience was having renowned musicians serve as mentors.

“It’s the kindness of the people and their willingness to share their gifts with me,” Robinson said. “I don’t expect people to take the time to have a conversation, even if it’s their broken English or my broken Portuguese, let alone take the time to show me some of their techniques. In some ways, this allowed me to experience what my students experience on a daily basis, being out of my comfort zone and learning new things and start from scratch on a few things so your brain has to think about every single thing you are doing.”

Robinson left Oct. 12 to visit Rio to finish some of her writing goals. While there, she met with musicians to get feedback on the start of her compositions.

“My goal is to write some music our students can use at our spring concert in May (2020), our Jazz Cafe,” she said.

Robinson received her first grant in 2011.

“You’re able to get up to two in your lifetime, but they have to be seven years apart,” Robinson said. “So, as soon as I was able to apply for my second one, I did. I didn’t expect to get it the first time, so I feel very fortunate to have gotten two.”

The first grant was $8,000 and was used for an American jazz project in New Orleans and New York City.

“I just explored the history of swing music and what the current state of it was,” Robinson said. “I think that was the catalyst for me growing a really reputable jazz program in the state of Indiana. That first trip gave me the tools to start building a great jazz program here.”

Robinson, who has taught at Noblesville Schools for 15 years, said she is still reaping the benefits from the 2011 grant through the connections she made.

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