Robin: artist, musician, performer, composer, teacher, mentor, writer, hilarious jokester, probing conversationalist, foodie, golfer, voracious reader and a most curious mind, has left us. Devoted husband to Eleanor, “King of the World” to his children Bryce and Dorothy, “Ogi” to his grandchildren Esme, Grayson and Lucie and father-in-law to Richard and Jill.
Robin was a percussionist in orchestras across the U.S. and came to Canada in 1968 to join Seiji Ozawa as the principal percussionist of the TSO. In 1971, he was a founding member of the renowned percussion ensemble Nexus. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, he won a Toronto Arts Award and the Banff School’s Donald Cameron Award. He was a guest conductor for New Music concerts, Array, CBC, the Art of Time Ensemble, and for over 20 years he directed and conducted the University of Toronto’s contemporary music and percussion ensembles. He was a teacher at the Eastman School of Music, York University and a leader of master classes around the globe. Robin was an avid writer and blogger on subjects ranging from “Winter Camping in Killarney” to the genius of Toru Takemitsu.
That’s just a précis of the many threads of Robin’s storied, adventure-filled life. He had two essential qualities; an insatiable, fearless curiosity, and an unflinching, uncompromising sense of right and wrong. Anyone who ever shared a glass of wine or a meal with him understood this. He was ferocious in his pursuit to make sense of the world around him, engaging anyone and everyone who crossed his path, on any subject. “What do you mean?” he would ask. “When and where did that concept arise? How do you spell that?” Robin would then pull a dictionary, atlas or book (and later an iPad) off the shelf. But on Friday, February 26th the questions and inquiry stopped for the first time in 79 years as he floated off peacefully for what Eleanor has described as “his final tour.” He will be missed, but never forgotten by those he loved.
There will be no formal funeral or services. In lieu of flowers, we ask you to consider supporting an arts organization you love in his honour. Dorothy Anne, Bryce, Jill, Richard, Esme, Grayson and Lucie would love to hear your Robin memory in the comments below.
February 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm
I’ve been getting lovely notes from so many friends, students, collegues and even Robin’s doctor. I wanted to share a few…
Jamie Drake a student…
Robin was a huge influence for me, as I’m sure he was for many who were lucky enough to come into contact with him. He taught me many things, not just about music; most of all, he taught me the value of committing to something you love and putting your whole heart into it. Many of my fondest memories of my time at UofT involved working with him, and attending the wonderful parties the two of you threw for the percussion ensemble.”
David Waterhouse, a friend,
I treasure my memories of our friendship and of many exchanges about music and other subjects. From the beginning we hit it off together, and I learned much from him.
Steve Houghton, a colleague
The very special times we had when I visited Canada and at PASIC, will always be some of my fondest memories.
Going to the Farmer’s Market, dinners at your beautiful condo and of course, the recording session at “The Senator” when you guys came and Robin gave a “whoo huh” after one of the songs – it’s on the recording:):)
Tiina Laukkenen, Colleague
I want you to know that I really loved Robin as a human being and I loved him as a percussionist and as a composer and a conductor. I loved his sense of humor! He was always so warm towards me and I was so touched with that! I will miss him!
Michael Udow, Colleague
I am reflecting on Robin along with NEXUS, Warren Benson, rudimental drumming, wine, golf and spirited to the point articulate forthright conversations, spoken with conviction and integrity; those are the things that instantly pop into my head. I truly always enjoyed many wonderful post concert times with Robin and those few ‘tete a tete’ repartee moments I had as well. Having studied composition with Warren Benson at Interlochen when I was in high school, I think that style of directness with a glimmer and a smile is something that Robin may have picked up from Warren Benson during Robin’s percussion studies at Ithaca. I remember when NEXUS would perform in Ann Arbor, Robin would bring his golf clubs so he could play the UM university course.
And he’d not only go back to Toronto with his clubs, music and sticks, but also a case or two of wine from the Village Corner wine shop on South University Ave.
Lauren Vogel Weiss, Colleague
If one could say that someone could have a “good death,” I think Robin had one. The perfect end to his “good life.”
Peggy Feltman, Nexus Manager
Your message that Robin has gone “on tour” made me smile. No doubt in “business class” as he always insisted – although for this REALLY BIG trip, he may be demanding First Class – he deserves it.
Tom Morris, Colleague
Robin was simply one of the great ones – a fantastic musician, percussionist and human being. I will never forget Nexus’ several appearances in Ojai, and my complete joy in joining in with them for Les Noces. Robin played tambourine with exquisite artistry and flair. And the rehearsals, of course, were a sketch. I enjoyed our email exchanges over the years. Robin was always so enthusiastic.
February 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm
Robin was a beautiful person who I met on many occasions at PASIC but we became real close friends as he sought to bring real diversity to the drumming community. Robin contacted me because he knew I was an African American percussion educator who was involved in PASIC and could help him in bringing the African American experience to his Drummer Heritage presentation at PASIC in Columbus. I connected him with Pedro Orey (Bethune Cookman) and Rodney Goods (Oak Village MS). Their performances were memorable and this entire concert has been documented in a DVD and people still talked about. Every year since that event when Robin saw me we embraced like long lost brothers. He was such a beautiful person that I will never forget. Rest in peace my friend and blessings to the family.
February 28, 2016 at 10:26 am
Your help in connecting Robin with the African American community for the Drummer’s Heritage concert at PASIC was instrumental to the success of that concert. At lunch a few days ago, Robin, She-e and I were talking about the concert and it centred around the participation of Bethune Cookman and how responsive the audience was when they entered the hall – it was magical. Your friendship was treasured by Robin and thank you so much for this tribute to him
February 27, 2016 at 11:05 pm
Richard and I have very fond memories of discussions with him about all kinds of things (other than music) at your home. I still have the book on Tecumseh which he gave to me while I was working on a commission commemorating the life of ‘Shooting Star’. Every moment Robin was so intensely engaged in researching the history of North America. I feel so honoured to have had the opportunities to get to know him better and learn from his wisdom and wit, and to hear many stories of his life experiences. Robin holds a special place in our hearts.
April 9, 2016 at 6:19 pm
Thank you for such kind words. Robin set aside some LPs for Richard and you are welcome to stop by and pick them up some time at your convenience.
February 27, 2016 at 11:41 pm
What a brilliant, generous commentator, after all that work as a player. Well done, good and faithful servant. Journey well, and rest in peace.
February 28, 2016 at 1:35 am
They don’t make them like that anymore.
Robin is unique — truly one of a kind. An incredible thinker, artist, and human being, with the most impeccable taste, and integrity.
We played a long and loud roll for you at Northwestern today — you must have heard it up there!! Hope it made you smile.
February 28, 2016 at 6:42 am
It has been a very sad day today, but also a day filled with memories of spending time with Robin, and Robin and Eleanor. I remember those U of T percussion ensemble rehearsals from the early 1980’s that were always so wonderfully charged with Robin conducting. I remember his 50th birthday party (what a time that was!!). I remember playing volleyball in his backyard north of Toronto, where I met Dorothy and Bryce for the first time. I remember helping with the move to the condo; going to the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey with Robin and watching Jack Nicklaus get a birdie on one of those wicked par 3s; playing with the Canadian Opera Company (O’Keefe Centre) and while not playing, hanging just outside the pit, where Robin, Mark Duggan and I would talk about life, while waiting for our cue to go into the pit and play a triangle note, having so many lovely meals at Robin and Eleanor’s home; watching the superbowl, when Kurt Warner received the award for MVP, and Warner said “I’d liked to thank Gadd” and Robin and I looked at one another and exclaimed at exactly the same time… “Steve Gadd?”…and burst out laughing….my oh my…so many memories. I learned so much from him….about being a good person, about appreciating family, about making music and loving sound, and about living life.
When I think of Robin, I feel filled with love, and I smile. Much love to Eleanor, Dorothy Anne and Richard, Bryce and Jill and all the family
April 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm
Such good memories. So happy that we will be seeing you soon.
February 28, 2016 at 8:15 am
I did not know Robin well. So glad I was able to golf with him, hear his music and his tales. Our percussion community will certainly miss this kind soul.
February 28, 2016 at 9:33 am
Robin was my percussion teacher at Ithaca College in the late sixties. His impact on my life continues to this day. His kindness, gentleness and love for music was instilled in everyone he touched. His enthusiasm and infectious chuckle were part of the greatest teaching tools. Thank you Robin you will be missed
April 9, 2016 at 6:23 pm
I remember those Ithaca College days and you very well. So kind of you to remember Robin so beautifully.
February 28, 2016 at 10:00 am
So very sad to hear of Robin’s passing. He was an incredible and important musical mentor to myself and so many others. His intense relationship with sound and beauty infiltrated all that he did from his gorgeous calligraphy notation to his off-the-wall metaphors to his laser gaze. An original thinker and communicator. I have many fond memories of UofT percussion ensemble rehearsals, the parties that followed and the lively dinner conversations around the Engelman family table the few times I joined them. When I heard the news, I reached out to another UofT percussion alum, Stephen Skoutajan, who lives here in Ottawa. We got together last night to toast Robin and reminisce about those days. How lucky we were. Robin will be so missed, but what a legacy he left. Condolences to Eleanor and all the family. xo
April 9, 2016 at 6:26 pm
Thank you Kathy – he was fortunate to have students such as yourself. Stay in touch!
February 28, 2016 at 12:18 pm
Boy oh boy, where can you even start to sum up what Robin meant to people. I met him first at Eastman a long time ago and he was even then a man you would never forget. He was a great human being who among other things was also a great percussionist, a great humorist, a great intellect, a great wine drinker, golfer, joker and conversationalist. It was a huge honour to have known and worked with him, and he will be remembered for a very long time. Condolences to you Eleanor, the family, and to all the friends and people whose lives he touched.
February 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm
How great it was to see you at Russ’ house this summer and catch up on everything. We thought that we might miss it as Robin had a chemo treatment that afternoon but he felt great. Russ and Bonnie sure kept the margaritas coming! Thank you so much for your remembrances and do keep in touch.
April 9, 2016 at 6:31 pm
It has taken me awhile to reply to all these tributes but they have really sustained me over the past few weeks. I won’t ever forget the good times we had in Finland with you and Tuija and all the margaritas we had together at Russ and Bonnie’s this past summer. Robin had just come from chemo but he was feeling good and so enjoyed the evening. Thanks so much for your posting.
February 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm
Thinking of you Eleanor. Much love. Gwyneth x
April 9, 2016 at 6:33 pm
And I’ve been thinking of you this past week with Howard’s passing. Lots of good memories.
February 28, 2016 at 12:38 pm
Christos Hatzis and I send our deepest condolences to you, Eleanor and your family. Through my own journey as a percussionist, Robin has always been in my thoughts and I have deeply admired his individualism and artistry. I remember Erica Goodman (harpist) mentioning how much she admired his musicality and specifically his “phrasing on the drums”. I often mention Robin in my own teachings for he was one of a kind…in the best way. For me, not just his musicianship but also as a deeply feeling human being. When I split up with my former companion, Robin offered a career opportunity (to apply for a commission for a new work for marimba soloist and the University of Toronto Percussion Ensemble) which helped me realize that life goes on amidst certain set backs. I think that was his intent! I’ll never forget that and also I’ll never forget him. I also have always admired how devoted you were to each other, Eleanor. Sending lots of love to you and the family during this difficult time. Sincerely, BEV JOHNSTON and CHRISTOS HATZIS
February 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm
Thanks Bev. I remember he got “static” from the faculty when he gave you an “unheard” 95 on your concerto with the U. of T orchestra – I think that was your senior year. He was so proud of you.
February 28, 2016 at 1:03 pm
I live across the street from Bryce and his family and had the pleasure of talking to Robin once.
He had a “special presence” in our brief visit but I also knew he was a musician/artist and of his association with Nexus. In the early eighties, while taking a music course at York University, I had a subscription to New Music Concerts and saw a performance by Nexus. It was my first encounter with percussion and left me with a strong musical memory…….it was so powerful. Later, to my surprise, I learned that one of the members was Bryce’s Dad! How fortunate Robin’s children were to grow up with such a creative person in their day to day lives…….and also for Grayson and Esme to have an inspirational grandfather as a role model for them.
February 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm
So true. Thanks so much for your thoughts.
February 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm
Robin was a man that you never forgot. I met him at Eastman, and his personality made him stand out in any crowd. A great percussionist, but so much more. He was honest, funny, always controversial. He was a great humanist, and always saw the truth in things. He was fun to be with, fun to play with, fun to eat with, and fun to drink with. The people who knew him will will never forget him. This is a sad day. Love to you Eleanor and to the whole family.
February 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm
Dear Eleanor and family: We have been receiving so many wonderful tributes to Robin on the NEXUS Facebook page. I will share them here in the comments.
Rich Holly: Oh, no, I am so, so sorry to hear this. A great loss for all of us.
Ainsley McNeaney: Godspeed, Robin.
Michael Bump: Our percussion family has lost yet another wonderful artist. I will always remember Robin for his generosity of time and knowledge. Even with a hectic visiting schedule, Robin and I spent hours assessing the Berryman percussion collection during my teaching at Ole Miss, providing me a keen history and performance practice lesson on practically every instrument. In particular, his expertise on American and European military instruments was second to none. Only a few days following their visit, Robin sent me his personal copy of Robert Garofalo and Mark Elrod’s book on Civil War Musical Instruments, which I’ll always treasure. I can imagine the hugs from John – – Good Speed, Robin ~
Patrick North: A terrible loss for the percussion world- for the music world. I’m blasting “Remembrance” right now- squeak toys and all. The sound quality of this YouTube video can’t match the Nexus Percussion recording, but as closing credits music goes, it’s still tops. http://youtu.be/FVI1swaoC6M
Sigurd Johnson : Sad news in the percussion world. I remember Robin sitting down with me and talking through my part in percussion ensemble piece I was playing in Michael Bump’s U of MS Percussion Ensemble back in the early 90’s. Generous and of course very talented. RIP
Julie Hill shared and said: Such a loss for the percussion community. What a tremendous musician and human being.
Michael W. Bull : Sad news indeed.
Tony Steve: My condolences to all of you and Mr. Engleman’s family.
Joakim Olsrud: Oh…
Charles Smit: Oh man.
Ernest Múzquiz: I didn’t know him personally but everyone who did spoke of him as being a genius. I’m honored to have been in attendance at NEXUS’ very first public concert in Rochester in the early 70’s. My condolences to his family and his fellow NEXUS members (all also geniuses!).
Mike Huestis: The percussion world lost a great performer, educator and innovatore today. Robin Engelman, founding member of NEXUS passed away yesterday afteroon. He was an inspiring musician and a gentleman, and he will be greatly missed. R.I.P. Mr. Engelman
Andrea Venet: Very sad to hear this today.
Scot Corey: Sad news.
Jonathan Sharp: Sad news for the percussion community…
Neil Landini: Rest easy, you’ve left us with much more than we had! I have had many chances to interact, study with, enjoy and be awed by Nexus and Robin over the years, and was glad of it! This is a tremendous loss for the percussion community.
Tim Feerst: Rest in Peace
Bill Lockhart: Adieu, Robin. I owe you much from our little time in each other’s company.
Greg Zuber: A legendary percussionist from a legendary group! RIP (That’s roll in peace!)
Pearl/Adams Concert Percussion: We send our condolences to Robin’s family and the entire Nexus family as well. Definitely a huge loss for the percussion community.
Woodshed Percussion:We will miss that boyish grin…..
Dan Baerg: I had the pleasure of working with Robin in the summer of 2007. I’m saddened to hear of his passing, and he will be missed. He will also be fondly remembered, as a true musical force to be reckoned with. Rest in Peace.
Joseph Krygier: Susan K. Powell, myself and a host of Ohio State percussionists were beyond fortunate to have Robin in our lives. He was singularly responsible for influencing and encouraging us to form our group, The OSU Fifes & Drums. His passion for ancient rudimental drumming was infectious. But, his love of ALL music was boundless and continues to inspire me, Susan and our students. On one of his visits to Ohio State he wrote the following (in his impeccable calligraphic handwriting) on a dry erase board just outside of Susan’s teaching studio: “Flams, Ruffs, Rolls. Everyday in Every Way.” Wise words. Miss you Robin. Blessings to you, Eleanor and all of the NEXUS family
Susan K. Powell: Couldn’t have said it better. Robin changed our lives for the better. Eleanor, our thoughts are with you-
Blinn College Percussion: Lost a legend in percussion.
Robbie Green: Very big loss in the Percussion community.
Janne Tuomi: My condolences.
Carlos Johnson: Makes me very sad.
Richard Henson Jr. – Saddened by this news
So Percussion: RIP Robin Engelman, a deeply funny man, wonderful human being, and consequential musician. He was one of the great pioneers of what we do.
Peter J Salah: Very Sad News
Eric Schweikert Sad day indeed.
Tiina Laukkanen: I will miss him.
Mio Chang: I’m deeply sorry to hear this saddest news. Rest in eternal peace Robin Engelman.
Ian Joseph Meiman: Safe travels Mr. Engelman.
Jay Ware : This is indeed a great loss for the world of percussion. Very sorry to hear of his passing.
Dan Moore: Our gig with the Britain Moore Duo, NEXUS and Peter Erskine was the first time that I really got to know Robin Engelman and Bill Cahn. It felt like they took the BMD under their wing. They advised us into the wee hours of the morning and then continued long after that. Robin Engelman and I have shared many laughs over the years and he will be missed. RIP Robin Engelman!
David Wayne DePriest: I remember back in the mid 1980’s when Nexus came through Tennessee in a tour and I had the fortune of getting to take time off from Tennessee Tech and drive their equipment around for them and be their roadie. Robin rode in the truck with me from Memphis to Clarksville. The conversations blew my mind not just from a percussion standpoint but life in general. I’ll miss him
Rácz Zoltán: Rest in peace, Robin. You are in my heart always.
Paul Berns: I feel so sorry for the Nexus family
Instagram, @nexuspercussion: Drew Tucker (@itsnotaxylophone): So sad. Wonderful player and an even better man.
February 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm
I am saddened to hear of Robin’s passing. I was a huge fan and, though I didn’t know him well, I always enjoyed chatting with him. We shared a love of the music of Henry Purcell, which was a surprise to me, but he discussed, in detail and seemingly off the top of his head, the military scene in King Arthur (“Come if you dare”) and several pieces in The Fairy Queen that were favourites of his. I played in his contemporary music ensemble at the Faculty and learned a lot from his uncompromising approach to music-making. I won’t lie: at the time he kind of terrified me, but that’s only because he was so committed, so intense and so eager to get it right and serve the music. Toronto Masque Theatre is presenting a Salon tomorrow night (Feb 29) at the Shaftesbury and I will dedicate it to Robin’s memory…because I think everyone there should know who Robin was and learn a little about the tremendous contribution he made to music. Rest in peace.
– Larry Beckwith
April 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm
Indeed he was a Purcell fan! Thank you for such lovely comments and the concert dedication in Robin’s memory.
February 28, 2016 at 5:29 pm
My condolences Eleanor to you and your family. Robin was my teacher at U. of T. and I admired him because he was brutally honest, he didn’t pull any punches. I have so many great memories of Robin: Percussion Ensemble rehearsals (the good ones and the bad); Percussion Ensemble concerts (I think most would agree with me that the parties afterwards that Eleanor and Robin hosted were the highlights of the nights); performing with Robin and the other members of NEXUS at PASIC; but my favourite times spent with Robin was when I was the road manager for NEXUS on two occasions, once in Kansas City and once in Philadelphia. Robin was so gracious and we spent time together in both cities, eating dinner together and telling stories, Robin was a great story teller. Robin was not just my teacher, he was my friend.
Farewell to Thee! But not farewell; To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell; And they shall cheer and comfort me.
Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live; And men more true Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give, Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.
February 28, 2016 at 5:35 pm
So beautiful Peter, thank you.
Dr. Don Philip
February 28, 2016 at 7:44 pm
I first met Robin when I was in high school. The U of T percussion needed more players and I was in the Toronto Youth Symphony, so I was asked to join. Long story but I got a science degree and then returned to music, taking some courses at York U. Robin was my teacher that year, and as a private student the year following. He was always kind and inspirational to me. I greatly appreciated my association with him, and regret losing touch. I became a professional musician, but some years ago an injury sidelined me, and I lost touch with many of the people I know in music. I am truly sorry for your loss.
April 9, 2016 at 6:44 pm
As I am finally spending some time trying to reply to many of the tributes that were posted on the website, I am only now solving the mystery surrounding a donation to the National Youth Orchestra in Robin’s memory that came from a Donald Philip. And here you are! Those York days go back to the early 70s and at that time, I really didn’t know the students very well so I could not place your association with Robin. I’m so happy that it was important to you and the donation to the National Youth Orchestra is wonderful. Thank you so much.
February 28, 2016 at 7:49 pm
Robin was my teacher/mentor at York University in the late 1970’s. We became friends almost immediately, and our paths have crossed many times over the last 40 years, as musicians and as pals. He encouraged me to become a high school music teacher as was my aspiration. In my first year as a teacher (in the Edmonton area), I took my students to see Nexus where I surprised Robin. He came, with Nexus, to the small town where I was teaching and performed an impromptu concert as a favour. My students, to this day, have never forgotten that performance.
A master musician, a gourmand and the man with greatest laugh – that was Robin to me.
Eleanor and family, Jessica and I send our deepest condolences.
Robin, I’ll miss you, buddy.
February 28, 2016 at 10:37 pm
Robin was my teacher for the UofT Percussion Ensemble in the early ’90’s. I loved his direct, clear approach to everything, whether it was a way to phrase a passage, strike a gong, or how to move a marimba. He wasted no time and was passionate in discussing everything. He also said he loved BB King and the Blues, which was refreshing. I loved his direct approach. He will be missed and I am so glad to have had those opportunities with him as my ensemble director.
February 28, 2016 at 11:26 pm
I have some wonderful memories of Robin from my time in Toronto, and from our friendship in the years that followed. He was one of the most hospitable and gracious hosts I have known, he was loyal and honest, and he had a sense of humour that I looked forward to every time I saw him.
Late one evening I was rehearsing a solo marimba piece in Walter Hall in preparation for an upcoming recital. Robin happened to be nearby and heard me playing. He strode casually toward me and without a word placed one of his hands on my left hand — the one playing a bass line — and lowered it closer to the keyboard. Immediately the piece made more sense. I was playing that bass line too loudly, and was preventing the upper voices from singing. Robin heard that, and with one gesture he brought the piece together. Robin walked away without saying a word.
The other memory I’ll share with you is from one of the post-concert parties Robin hosted at his apartment. I looked forward to those parties because of Robin’s company, the stories he told, Eleanor’s renowned cooking, and simply because of the way Eleanor and Robin opened their home to us.
As the night wore on and after many stories, Robin got a little more serious. I was new to town, but he was already aware of my many youthful indiscretions. RE: “Danny, if it’s the middle of the night, you’ve gotten yourself into trouble, and you need someone to bail you out of jail, I’m the one you call.” He delivered that last line in his characteristically emphatic, no-bullshit, and honest way.
I truly enjoyed working with Robin, and I learned a tremendous amount from him. I didn’t always agree with what he had to say, but I knew he would be the one to bail me out of jail in the middle of the night.
The world is poorer without you, Robin.
April 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm
Thank you Danny for sharing your memories and I know he never had to bail you out of jail!
February 29, 2016 at 4:41 am
I am really sorry to hear about Robin’s death. I just shared this sad news with Asaka and she was really shocked, too.
It is 20th anniversay of Toru’s death this year, and as you must know, he died in February, too.
I remember so many beautiful moments with Robin, you, Toru, Asaka and myself. Even after Toru passed away, both you and Robin were so nice to Asaka and me and we spent so much time together. I remember doing MC at the special concert for kids by Nexus at Tokyo Opera City.
Robin and you came to Carnegie for Toru’s film music concert in 2010.
Now I am sure Robin will enjoy his reunion with Toru and John somewhere up in the sky.
Our deepest condolences to you.
Love from Asaka and Maki Takemitsu
April 17, 2016 at 1:43 pm
Robin’s life would not be what it was had it not been for meeting Toru in 1968 here in Toronto. He loved and respected him so highly – truly a mentor and friend to Robin. There are so many wonderful memories that we share and how happy we were to see you and Asaka again in NYC. We treasure Toru’s music, especially “Bryce” (Robin always thought it was one of his best) and of course, “From me flows what you call Time”. Please give your mother our love and thank you so much for sharing your memories with us.
February 29, 2016 at 8:18 am
I played in the Contemporary Music Ensemble for three of my four years there as a student at U of T. Easily my most valuable and enriching experience while at the Faculty of Music in the eighties. I remember the zingers that would come from him if a player didn’t count or listen in rehearsals and miss their entry. And Heaven help you if you were late for a rehearsal…(Sure hope you can get a teaching gig…)
He made us all expect more of ourselves! I remember Robin treating us at Birdie’s Pub after concerts. Generous. Made us feel like gladiators! What we were doing was important. I remember him all the time whenever I am rehearsing. “If you can count it, you can play it.” I said that just last Saturday, I was thinking of him! “Where there is rhythm, there is life!”
I know about Takemitsu because of Robin.
Julian Fisher, viola player
April 23, 2016 at 5:51 pm
He loved conducting the Contemporary Music Ensemble and experiencing the talents of the members. Thank you sharing your memories of Robin
February 29, 2016 at 8:20 am
I was so, so sorry to hear of Robin’s passing. I”m coming to Toronto this April for the first time in years and was once again, thinking of contacting Robin so we could have another great couple of hours. Sadly, this will not happen of course. I have so many memories of Robin. Throughout my time at U of T, he was a constant source of wonderment, humor and sometimes I just totally didn’t get him. That was more in my first years when I was very inexperienced and he was sometimes so off-the-wall. He sarcastically showed me how to assemble a snare-drum stand while rehearsing Ionisation, he would give an incredible vocal imitation of Ravel’s La Valse, he would call Reich a fasicst. After I had been turned down as a composition major or minor, he was always so welcoming with anything I wanted to write for the percussion ensemble or for any ensemble. I remember Robin inviting me over for lunch to have a look at my newest score; he took out an extremely sharp pencil and started drawing the most beautiful notes and giving me pointers on notation. He adjudicated two of my recitals and his comments were profound and hilarious at the same time. Even after I had left Toronto and moved to the Netherlands, he was always so welcoming and so supportive of anything I was doing. I remember how incredibly in awe I was of his percussion writing in his piece “Remembrance”: so much attention to detail, so sensitive and so funny. You will be greatly missed Robin…Eleanor, please accept my deepest condolences.
April 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm
Thank you Gabe. I know he was always interested in hearing from you and admired the direction your talents took you. Do keep in touch .
February 29, 2016 at 8:27 am
Dorothy and family: Diana and I want to express our condolences to you on the passing of your father. While we did not know Robin his obituary notice captures a unique and special person.
Spencer & Diana
Mary Ann Griffin
February 29, 2016 at 9:15 am
I am truly sad to hear of Robin’s passing. He was such a lovely man, so funny, and so full of brilliant ideas. I really missed our long conversations in my office when he stopped coming to the Faculty regularly. And I remember how much Julia enjoyed doing some work for him.
Our very deepest condolences to you and your family.
Mary Ann Griffin & Julia
February 29, 2016 at 9:19 am
Robin was one of those few who helped me find the courage to choose music as a lifestyle and profession when I was adrift in high school. I don’t think the internet is big enough to hold the complete list of his sense of humour and witticisms! and all those wonderful memories! I am grateful.
John H. Beck
February 29, 2016 at 10:04 am
With Robin in the percussion section of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra there were always great musical moments and hilarious moments coupled together to make working together a joy. He was a special person – a unique person that had an effect on all those who were fortunate enough to know him. He definitely marched to his own drum beat. He left his mark in this world for all of us to remember and hopefully become better because of it. He will be missed but never forgotten. John H. Beck
April 23, 2016 at 5:58 pm
Those were great times in Rochester. And your “Dramatics Award 1967 Oscar” to Robin always had a place on his desk. Bryce and Dorothy took the award further and called him “King of the World”. He certainly did act like that some times!
February 29, 2016 at 11:03 am
Dear Eleanor and the family,
My wife Jackie Shin and I send you and your family our deepest condolences.
It was very sad to hear that Robin is no longer with us.
I was Robin’s student at the U of T’s percussion ensemble.
He was such a warm and strong man.
The percussion ensemble rehearsals were legendary and always ‘events’,
where many things and conversations could take place.
They were in a way musical gatherings, more than just rehearsals.
Robin would tell stories in relating to the pieces we were rehearsing
and preparing for the concert.
He was completely into the repertoire that we performed there – music
by Bruce Mather, John Cage, John Beckwith and Jo Kondo for example.
Robin loved the music and really wanted to share his experience and
knowledge with the students.
He was really open.
The after concert parties at the Engelman’s were really warm-spirited
I enjoyed those merry times alot!
I also had the pleasure of hosting Robin’s and Eleanors’ visit in
2008 at the Sibelius Academy and the Helsinki Guards Military Band in Finland,
where Robin gave very detailed and compelling masterclasses and
lectures on historical military music and orchestral percussion
I miss him very much and hope that the party for him will be filled with warm memories.
Rest in peace Robin
April 23, 2016 at 6:04 pm
Thank you Antti – and to Jackie too. We loved the 2008 trip to Helsinki and he always loved getting together with students. He never thought of himself as a teacher but I think he never thought of having the traditional teacher/student relationship with students. We are having the party for Robin on June 4 and I’ll have all these tributes and memories printed out and bound for everyone to look at but also a keepsake for the family. Do keep in touch.
February 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm
I first met Robin (and Eleanor) when they asked me to make “a special cabinet” for their front hall. Some time later, after the piece was made and delivered, Robin and I started to discuss the qualities of different woods and in particular, the sounds they made and ultimately this turned into a field trip for Robin and a number of students to my workshop/studio. I laid out about 8 different woods, along with hammers and mallets with which to strike them. I remember thinking before they arrived that this exercise probably won’t last long. After initial intros and, at Robin’s request, a brief tour, they started tapping the woods and discussing the tones and timbres of each species. Then Robin’s questions started. Can this be thinner or shorter or tapered and if so, how would that change the result. For the next two hours I did the woodworking and Robin and the students experimented with sound. Never has my workshop been put to a more interesting, inspiring and enjoyable use. Although I have not seen Robin for many years, that day has remained in my memory and I will miss him for that as well as his generous spirit.
April 23, 2016 at 6:10 pm
How wonderful it was to receive your tribute to Robin and I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply. One of my activities over the past weeks has been to give away and sell his instruments. We brought all his instruments out of storage and put them out in the solarium in groups. There were many woodblocks – many of them from his day with you. I gave most of them away but I did keep the one that you signed and it has a place here on his desk. I hope you are well. Your cabinet still graces our hall and we have had so many compliments about it.
February 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm
Wonderful tributes are continuing to come in to the NEXUS Facebook page. We will share them here:
Mika Stoltzman Oh….no….ご冥福をお祈りいたします。
Oh…. No…. May his soul rest.
Mark Rickerby: Sad. Though happy sad. Whatta life!
Marvin R Sparks Jr : Oh man, so sorry to hear this news. Sending condolences and prayers to the family and Nexus members and Ray Dillard. Man.
Fernando Meza :Terribly sad news for all of us in the music world indeed. Condolences to his family, and to the Nexus family, and thank you for the inspiration Robin! You will certainly continue to provide it to all of us who had the pleasure of knowing you.
Scott Deal Such a loss, my thoughts go out to Nexus and family. Robin was simply a wonderful person and musician.
Biao Li: RIP！
Diego Espinosa RIP
Shawn Lafrenz: RIP Robin, and Thank you.
John Wooton: RIP Robin. I appreciate all you did for the percussive world but most of all the kindness and humility you showed me.
Amy Salsgiver: The world lost a pioneer of percussion ensemble music, thank you for all that you gave.
sa.ne.na : The world lost one of the pioneers of percussion ensemble. What a great man, thank you for your life.
Sean Kleve: It’s terrible to hear this news that NEXUS percussionist, Robin Engelman has passed away. NEXUS are pioneers in the percussion ensemble world. For me personally, Nexus changed my life. When I was in 8th grade, my grandmother took me to a NEXUS concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was my first time hearing Steve Reich’s music when they performed Music for Pieces of Wood. I was barely a percussionist at that time in my life. They planted a seed and I continue to think about that concert today.
Amadinda Percussion Group: Rest in peace, Robin Engelman!
Andrew Timar Posted a 1972 or ’73 photo of Robin performing with Trichy Sankaran. Unfortunately it does not want to copy over to here. It is on the NEXUS Facebook page. Andrew says, Ìt captures how I remember Robin when we first met. He’s playing the drum practice pad with an intense musical focus. Drumsticks in hand he’s tackling “Three Camps” with his illustrious York University colleague, my teacher and subsequent colleague Trichy Sankaran (here playing the kanjira). They’re surrounded by the tools of Robin’s trade. Examine the photo. See how they’re poised like two dancers, the tension and excitement of their musical dialogue palpable in their body language.
The ’70s York scene and Robin’s place in it is an era that I’ve come to think was at the beating heart of a certain kind of transcultural music making, and for a few (trans)formative years I was privileged to be part of it.
Spending a career since exploring several such musical border crossings, I see that Robin’s studio and the openness of his music practice was one of its early touchstones. His continuing friendship was yet another. He will be missed by many.
Ihor Sywanyk: Enjoyed some good times with him many moons ago. RIP Robin.
Colin Offord: a fine musician and a very decent human
Shannon Wood: Condolences
Sam Houston State University Percussion Studio: Very sad news over the weekend for the percussion community…
Michael Burritt: Robin was the real deal. Committed to his music, friends and students. He was all in! I’ll miss him deeply.
Kyle Forsthoff: Among other impacts equally forceful, Robin’s incredibly generous donation late in the game helped make Pines Long Slept in Sunshine a reality.
Joao Catalao: RIP Sad day to percussion world…
On Bill Cahn’s Facebook Page:
Lee Gurst: Bill – I’m writing to express my condolences and sympathy at Robin’s passing. I can’t image the impact of his absence in your life, the lives of the other Nexus members and associates, his family, his friends, and his students. I remember part of a conversation you and I had many years ago, at Alan’s retirement party as I recall. We talked about our shared feeling that we had grown up in a time of legendary figures, the giants who had inspired the careers that we chose. It was certainly true for us, in Philadephia; just as it was in many other cities around the country. I asked, rhetorically, if any of our colleagues wont take up the mantles of their teachers and mentors and become the next generation of giants and trailblazers. Well, time has shown that, at least as regards Nexus, the ensemble and each of its individual members, the answer is clearly, Yes. Through his playing, research, teaching, and personal encouragement and support for the efforts of so many others, Robin made significant contributions to the world of music, especially in the field of percussion, and continued to build on the legacy that was passed on by those who taught and inspired him. His death is a loss to all of us, even those of us who only met or knew him casually. I envy those of you who shared your lives and work with him for all of those years. Your loss is more than I can allow myself to imagine and, certainly, more that I can possibly express. Please share my condolences with Russell and the others. My thoughts will be with you as your lives and work continue. Take good care, my friend.
Amy Stubbs Very, very sad to learn. Such a magnificent musician and person. My thoughts are with you, NEXUS, and his loved ones. Peace.
Sonja Benson Allers We just heard of Robin’s passing. We are deeply saddened to hear the news. Bill, I sent you a personal email as our father had and our family have such fond memories of Robin, his personal and musical families.
February 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm
Though I never had the honour of meeting Robin, I have however, been fourtuante enough to experience the beautiful light that shines in the form of his daughter, Dorothy. For anyone so incredibly brilliant and passionnate to have come from him, he has to have also been and incredible person. May he rest in peace and may your family take joy from the memories of your life with him. Thinking of you, D, L & R.
February 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm
I very much enjoyed working with Robin from 2002 when I joined NEXUS until 2009 when he left the group. Robin had a unique musical sensitivity that revealed itself in his creative writing and approach to percussion as a musician not just as a percussionist. He sent me a link to a Korean handbell choir performance which I now see as a fitting tribute to him. I’d like to share this beautiful hymn with everyone as we say farewell to brother Robin. Robin was a complex spirit with a great sense of humor and loved by many. I am sure he will continue as such. I send my condolences to his wonderful family.
You Raise Me Up(날 세우시네) / Arr. S. Eithun / 17th Concert, Daejeon Handbell Choir / Nov.7,2009 / Daejeon Handbell Choir – South KOREA / Conductor ; Song JaeWeoul
February 29, 2016 at 7:14 pm
Oh, Garry – thank you for posting that video. It is so beautiful and just the thing that Robin would love.
March 1, 2016 at 8:15 am
We shared a love for interesting sonorities and beautiful instruments. Because of that, he had sent that link to me a few years ago and I enjoyed watching it again recently. I sent him an email last Friday not knowing that he’d die that day. I wish the best for you and your family. I know that Robin will continue to do great things.
March 2, 2016 at 11:08 pm
Incredibly beautiful…..while underneath the harmony, I am hearing the deep rudimental drums of the NY Ancients / NJ Field Music on St. Patrick’s Day while marching down Broadway…. O’ Robin Boy, O’ Robin Boy! Tis but your gift to us all.
March 1, 2016 at 11:35 am
Special Moments with Robin
On Saturday, February 27, 2016 when I first received news of Robin’s passing, I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of sadness that can only come from losing someone who is loved as a longtime friend, mentor, and colleague. My mind has been flooded with memories, and yet it has taken days to be able to express anything in words, suspecting all the while that Robin would likely rather that nothing be said at all.
I’ve shared so many wonderful times with Robin Engelman over the 50-years since I first met him at a Rochester Philharmonic rehearsal, that it would take a sizeable volume to relate them all. Without a doubt, Robin was the most memorable personality I will likely ever meet, and in many ways in addition to being a colleague and friend, he was one of my teachers – in and outside of music.
There are, however, two special memories that are near the top of a very long list, one having occurred onstage and the second offstage on the golf links.
In 1984 NEXUS embarked on an amazing four-month-long world tour that took us – along with our 20 trunks of percussion instruments – to China, Japan, Korea, through Canada, to the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and England, including a solo concert at Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms.
In Amsterdam we performed for a very large audience on June 23 at the Carré Theatre, a huge capacity venue. The performance was part of the Holland Festival and the program was Music for Pieces of Wood (Reich), Branches (Cage), Third Construction (Cage), Drumming Part 1 (Reich), African Suite (NEXUS), and Novelty Ragtime Selections (G.H. Green/arr. Becker & Cahn).
The John Cage piece, Branches, was on the subtle side of the dynamic spectrum for such a large space, with its very high ceiling. NEXUS performed the piece freely on various plant-derived instruments, including a 3-feet-tall cactus that was amplified with a contact mic. The resulting sounds, particularly the plucking of the needles on the cactus, could be very engaging and frequently hilarious when heard up close. However, the audience was not up close; in fact, they were separated from the performance area by quite a distance, which made it somewhat difficult for them to hear, let alone appreciate all of the sounds.
After about 2-minutes into the performance of Branches I could sense that many in the audience were becoming restless. Suddenly the general atmosphere of quiet, with the audience straining in order to hear anything, was broken when someone in the audience shouted at the top of his lungs, “BULLS_ _ !!” Without dropping so much as a millisecond Robin shouted at the top of his lungs, “ NO, CACTUS S_ _ _ !!” It was an absolutely brilliant response, and the English speakers in the audience reacted with approval. The review the next day in the newspaper (de Volkskrant, June 25, 1984) made a special effort to highlight that once-in-a-lifetime moment, and the article even included a photo of NEXUS during the Branches performance.
Another great memory with Robin occurred later on that 1984 world tour in August. NEXUS was a featured ensemble at the Liverpool International Garden Festival. On one of our free days off Robin asked me if I’d like to go with him to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club to play a round. The Club is as prestigious as it sounds, though Robin, in his wonderful nonchalant manner, thought nothing of it. I said ‘yes,’ and off we went with Robin driving a rental car, and me nervously reminding him frequently to drive on the left side of the roads.
At the links, Robin removed his golf clubs from the trunk of the car and was immediately approached by one of the caddies, with whom Robin immediately formed a bond. I didn’t realize that this was a links course. From every tee the view was the same in every direction – no trees or other land marks to help with judging distances or finding the relatively small patches of fairway, let alone the pot bunkers. Unless a golfer has played the course many times, it would be virtually impossible to know where to hit the ball. Not being much of a golfer (in fact, not a golfer at all) I bowed out. I realized that the advice of a caddie was absolutely essential to tell the player where and how far away to strike the ball, over many yards of gorse in order to find the patch of fairway.
Robin was at the height of his golf game – a virtual scratch golfer, I believe – and he played the opening few holes well as I tagged along behind him and his caddie. Since he was playing alone, we eventually caught up with a foursome of Club members, who graciously allowed Robin to play through after a brief exchange of introductions. As Robin set up the ball on the tee, I noticed the Club members’ expressions. It seemed to me that they were just waiting for this North American stranger to shank a few balls into the gorse. I really felt nervous for Robin as he waddled. This was potentially as stressful as playing a recital of marimba solos at Carnegie Hall; I can’t imagine being under any more pressure than this situation presented.
Robin raised the club and made his swing . . . “tick” . . . a perfect stroke as the ball shot out straight into the middle of the distant fairway. “Thank you, gentlemen!” was all that Robin said as he handed his driver back to the caddie and left the tee without displaying the slightest hint of bravado. I sighed a very deep breath of relief as I mentally fist-pumped to myself, “YES, YES, YES!” Later, as we talked about Robin’s round on the drive back to our hotel, Robin never even mentioned his fabulous “playing-through” shot; it was just another day on the links.
AND, these were only two of the countless – countless! – inspiring moments with Robin.
(Bill Cahn – March 1, 2016)
March 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm
Thank you for those wonderful stories, Bill! I am so grateful to have known Robin, and I know how much we’re all going to miss him!
April 23, 2016 at 6:36 pm
What can I say – you know how to tell a story. As I am writing this I realized that this year, 2016, represents 50 years that we have known you. It was 1966 when Robin became principal percussionist with the Rochester Philharmonic and you and Ruth were two of his favorite extras – I guess you were juniors at Eastman. What a history!!!
March 1, 2016 at 11:48 am
The obituary notice got it right: Robin will be “missed but not forgotten.” Kathleen & I are immensely grateful for the long & warm friendship with you and Robin, Eleanor. I benefited many times from Robin’s excellent percussion advice & have always thought of him as a first-class conductor. When I wrote a percussion piece dedicated to our mutual friend Udo Kasemets, Robin presented it with his student ensemble & later recorded it. In response I wrote another ensemble piece & he also played that, this time as co-dedicatee. Our many intense discussions on new music & on music history stand out in my memory of him, along with his bang-on (but never cruel) assessments of musical events & performers. An exceptional human spirit. We send you our fondest wishes, Eleanor. John Beckwith.
April 23, 2016 at 6:38 pm
Thank you for your thoughts, John. He had so much admiration for you both.
March 1, 2016 at 3:09 pm
I first saw Robin at an Ithaca College Percussion Ensemble concert with Warren Benson when I was an elementary school student from Groton, NY. My band director took a group of us to the concert and Robin was playing a piece rolling on suspended cymbal with hard felt stick , crescendoing, when one of the sticks exploded and flew around the stage. It was something I can still picture today. A few months later a friend and I started lessons with Robin who was my first private teacher at the church on Buffalo Street in Ithaca that served as a concert setting for Ithaca College prior to the new campus being built in the 1960’s. I remember him sauntering down the street to meet us for lessons, beret and trench coat on, pulling a personal sized grocery cart.
In those early days of his teaching he was not into the Pratt contest solos which I as a marching nut was trying desperately to master. Later in the 70’s when I was in The Army Band in Washington, he called me and asked me to play Gingersnap over the phone for him. Then a couple of other pieces as he was revved up on Rudiments. Everything he did with GUSTO! Insight! Intellect and Curiosity. Kindness! RIP Robin
March 1, 2016 at 4:19 pm
Dear Eleanor and family –
I am so very sorry to hear of Robin’s passing.
I feel so lucky to have to have known him and worked with him, to have performed his music with him as well as the music of others, and I feel so privileged with both the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers that we could work with him many times as colleagues. However, I remember him most as a mentor for me at the very first Canadian Youth Orchestras Festival in Banff around 1976. I was a student and a member of the percussion section of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, and Robin was assigned to work with us. A memory which has never left me is Robin teaching me how to play a single beautiful note on the triangle. I never approached any instrument in the same way again.
I am so sad for your profound loss, Eleanor, and for that of your family, and for the loss to Robin’s dear NEXUS life-long friends and colleagues.
He will be so very deeply missed, and so very dearly remembered.
April 24, 2016 at 12:23 pm
Thank you Lydia for your comments. He loved working with you and I remember too, the enjoyment that he had working with the youth orchestras in Banff. I’d love to hear again the piece that he composed with you – “Left to Live On”. One of these days I’ll look for it in Sibelius.
Thomas Brawn, flutist
March 1, 2016 at 5:57 pm
I am a flutist. My two brushes with name, that name being Robin Engelman came courtesy of the fabulous tympanist/persussionist of The Regina Symphony and dear friend Lisa Simmermon. One was for a lesson on a flute/vibes duet by De Beradinas(?) which happened onstage between rehearsals at Old Massey Hall with Robert Aitken within earshot and the other was at his farm. At the farm Lisa was looking for insight into Telemann’s E minor flute fantasia on marimba. He didn’t know the piece at first run, but turned it into a thing of unearthly beauty upon second playing. Then he went on with an exquisite rendering of Bach’s first Cello Suite. Maybe Lisa was there for technique advice, but Robin, as he did at Massey Hall, seemed to be musing and talking about “spheres” and flying in his mind from sphere to sphere with that delightful almost childlike smile in his face an eyes. The afternoon ended with Robin accompanying himself on regimental rope drum to echos off the barn out back.
The two best flute lessons I’ve ever had…
Thomas Brawn, flutist
March 2, 2016 at 1:24 am
Eleanor, words simply cannot express. Robin was such a presence in my life. It’s now Tuesday night, and I’ve spent a good deal of time over the past few days thinking about our long friendship, which goes back to the days of that wonderful King City farm house.
As I think of it now, Robin was not only there to mentor me when I was very young and getting started in music, but was also someone I could count on years later when I began writing journalism. In fact, you and Robin both were there; you may recall the time I came over to your place in a panic, agonizing over an early piece I was writing for the Globe. I think you both sacrificed a few hours sleep that night helping me out. That was about 20 years ago. Then, for an afternoon just a few short weeks ago, Robin was there again, so generously giving me feedback on my book. As exhausted as he must have been, he emailed me that evening offering to help out again.
There have been memorable discussions over the years about music, the arts and politics. When Noriko entered my life there were further questions and discussions about Toru Takemitsu that were so helpful and important to her.
Eleanor, your and Robin’s friendship is one that Noriko and I cherish enormously, and we send our deepest condolences, and much love, to you, Dorothy, Bryce, Jill, Richard, Esme, Grayson and Lucie.
April 17, 2016 at 2:18 pm
Thank you so much for your thoughts. We have indeed shared many good times.
Love to you and Noriko
March 2, 2016 at 10:47 am
Jo Kondo, Composer, friend, colleague
Thank you so very much for writing me. Reading your message, I wept. I cannot find any words to express sufficiently my deep sadness. He was one of my best friends in my life. His friendship and musical spirit were always great encouragement for me to keep composing music, and will remain so. Robin lives in me, until I come to join him in the Heaven.
Eleanor, I know you proud of your great family, Robin and yourself with your children and grandchildren. It is my great fortune to live close to such a wonderful family.
March 2, 2016 at 11:43 am
So sorry Eleanor to hear of Robin’s passing. Thanks to you both for inspiration in music, food, wine, humour and intellectual curiosity that because of your sharing live on. The time at school as a teacher, on gigs as a colleague (he was always reverent, irreverent and just plain funny all at once), quiet meals and bigger parties with your great food and not just drinking wine, but learning about it also. A few rounds of golf and many hours on the road with Nexus, eating, drinking, hanging out. All these memories, passions and hobbies are alive because of Robin and you.
March 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm
I first met Robin in Knoxville, TN, 1977, when I had the honor of introducing the first ever Nexus concert at a PASIC. We remained friends over the years and saw each other frequently at various events. Never shy about expressing his opinions, Robin and I had some delicious conversations about music and musical expression. Knowing that I had switched from a traditional snare drum grip to matched grip for orchestral playing, Robin loved to give me grief about that. He was very much a traditionalist! One of the most memorable events that I ever attended was “The Drummer’s Heritage Concert” at PASIC 2002 in Columbus. As Artistic Director for that concert, Robin pulled it together and made it happen through sheer perseverance against some great odds. The concert was a total triumph. It literally brought tears to my eyes and I am so grateful to have been in the audience that night! Thank you, Robin, for all the wonderful memories. You live on in the memories of the many who love you and were positively influenced by you! Eleanor and family, please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss.
April 24, 2016 at 12:27 pm
Thank you Doug – You are right – I can’t tell you how many times I thought he should just give up on trying to put together that concert. But as you said, he persevered and what a memorable concert it has been for so many people.
March 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm
Eleanor, i was so sorry to hear about Robin. I know he was ill for quite a while, but it hurt to hear that he had passed away. As for memories of Robin, I think back fondly of being in Jill and Bryce’s back yard, and talking about how lovely it would be for me to spend a month or so it Italy. Lovely talk, as happened often when talking with you and Robin.
March 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm
Here is a link to Tom Allen’s Tribute he made on CBC Radio 2.
Thanks Tom for your beautiful thoughts.
March 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm
Here is a lovely note from Robin’s long time Doctor:
I appreciate you including me in your sharing of this sad news. I have a wonderful collection of CDs that Robin had very kindly given me over the years which I will be enjoying. In his memory this evening. Like parents, doctors are not supposed to have favourite patients, but I must confess that I always smiled when I saw Robin’s name on my day sheet. I was certain to hear a terrific story, learn about a composer I didn’t know well, or perhaps the origin of an interesting word. Once in a while, some medicine happened, but I am not sure always who was the healer and who was the healed-went both ways most of the time.
He once composed a terrific improvised piece in my office using a series of tuning forks and reflex hammers, eliciting vibrations of all sorts as he rubbed them against walls, desk and so on. A unique experience in my professional life, for sure, but likely just one small event in the life of a creative, inventive and infectiously engaging man.
My deepest condolence to all of you as you mourn his loss and celebrate his life. May his memory be a blessing.
March 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm
Thinking of you and your family. Please give your mom my love…I sent a note to a friend.Laurel Karlik Sheehan. Ironically, or perhaps not…she is a concert pianist and performed with john Cage. Soon after we became acquainted to come together on a palliative care and music idea, and knowing that she originated in Toronto, I asked her if she knew your father. It was Robin that solidified our connection ,and that ‘s when she told me about her work with Cage. Laurel now works at GBMC and is doing wonderful things with palliative care. Here is her reaction after reading your Dad’s obituary—–Oh, I’m sorry, Lauren.
I will dedicate this week’s concert at GBMC to his memory.
I will play piano/Cello beautiful music in the Palliative Concert Series this Wednesday at noon. The cellist is principal cello of Aspen Chamber Orchestra in the summers, and teaches at Catholic U in DC.
We should talk soon.
Laurel——————–Sending love and peace, Lauren
April 24, 2016 at 12:43 pm
How lovely Lauren. Please thank your friend Laurel – Cage was a strong mentor to Robin. Our friends from Germany took us to the church in Halberstadt where the John Cage Project Organ2ASLSP is happening. The last note will sound in 2640. We plan to make a donation to have a plate made with a Cage quotation on it for the year 2205 which will be our 200th Anniversary of our first meeting with our German friends. It is an incredible experience to walk into the church and hear one sound – I believe the next note/chord changes in 2020.
March 2, 2016 at 9:00 pm
Tonight at the TSO after work concert, I learned of Robin’s passing as the host paid tribute to Robin’s contributions to the music we love. I am saddened by the news and send you, Eleanor and the family, my biggest hugs. His spirit will be with us as the music plays on. Much love, Shirley
March 3, 2016 at 1:09 am
I’m very sorry to learn of Robin’s passing and my condolences to Eleanor, Dorothy, and the rest of the family. Bravo to the contribution that Robin made to the musical community here and elsewhere. We met in the TSO back in 1971 where he and John Wyre excitedly told me of their formation of Nexus. I greatly admired their playing and knew this would be a good thing. Then when I heard Russ, Bob, Bill, and Michael’s playing I was blown away. The combined musicianship and creative energy of these guys took me far beyond my previous soundscape.
During the following many years, we crossed paths on occasion, and I always relished sharing a laugh or an idea with Robin. I could say anything and he would be listening. So farewell to a fine man!
March 3, 2016 at 9:51 am
Robin and I are a product of modern times…close friends who have never heard each other’s voice. It was so long ago that I actually can’t remember how we met. I believe he contacted me with questions regarding the Connecticut style of scoring drum beatings. I put him in touch with drummers from Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps in Connecticut. From there it went on to articles in the Ancient Times, a publication of the Company of Fifers and Drummers.
Besides being a quality musician, Robin was also a gifted historian and historical writer.
I have long been a fan of NEXUS and maintained a pen pal by email relationship for many years. If one’s life can be measured by the number and quality of his friends, Robin has surely passed through the Gates of Heaven.
March 3, 2016 at 10:52 am
I was in Robin’s percussion ensemble at UofT almost a decade ago. I remember always being nervous for rehearsal, because you had to be “on.” Robin made you want to understand the music, to play better. Even if he was chastising you for a mistake, for forgetting your music or for sounding like an elephant falling down the stairs, everyone – including the one being chastised – would be laughing or trying to keep his or her laughter inside. I’ll never forget the word “defenestrate,” which is what Robin subtly threatened to do during one rehearsal to a student playing a part with, lets say, less artistry than he could have. It still makes me laugh.
I never felt more respected as a musician than with Robin, and even after I changed career paths, I never felt that this respect had faded, which may, however, have had a more to do with our mutual love of good wine than anything else.