May. 23, 2017
Dr. Robison is an opera trailblazer who has had a significant impact on the vocal departments of several institutions. Currently Area Coordinator of Vocal Studies, Dr. Robison also teaches private lessons, acts as instructor for several Conservatory courses including Lyric Diction, and is the head of the Conservatory's Opera program. Her students have a wide variety of backgrounds and aspirations, and she is enthusiastic to work with each of them to push them to higher standards of excellence. Alumna Katelyn MacIntyre ('13) notes, "In my lessons she has blended a highly technical approach with a balanced focus on artistry and performance practice that has challenged me in all areas as a vocalist." Current student Elizabeth Sywulka ('15) also remarks, "She is truly a teacher who invests in the goals of her students and makes sure that they leave Biola prepared for the next step in their plans."
International opera soprano and alumna Katie Van Kooten ('01) was profoundly influenced by Dr. Robison's patient and insightful guidance. "One of the main focuses of my time with Dr. Robison was on singing as a viable career option. Her instinctual directing style taught me that being an artist means letting the music dictate how I respond emotionally and technically to the staging and character of a role. She challenged me to think deeply about character development, connecting, and communicating emotion through musical choices and style. And with her vast knowledge of repertoire, and the pedagogy of the voice, chose music that not only challenged my learning, but was also suited specifically to my vocal capabilities. She saw beyond my current technique and training to the potential I had as a person who could—and would!—have an international career in classical music…I am thankful for her continued influence in my life and excited for the students whose lives and careers she continues to bless with her gifts and love of music and singing."
Education & Influences
Her studies with Mrs. Pegors at Kent State had a profound influence on her own artistry as well as on her own teaching style. Dr. Robison says, "I learned solid technique from her. In fact, my current vocal pedagogy is patterned after what I learned in her studio." Noticing the insightful ways she analyzed vocal issues and suggested solutions to fellow students in their weekly studio voice class, Mrs. Pegors encouraged Dr. Robison to pursue a career in teaching and later offered her a part-time position at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Dr. Robison says, in retrospect, "Every door God opened prepared me for college teaching. Never would I have imagined when I began my undergraduate degree that I would one day have earned a doctorate and be directing opera and teaching voice at the college level."
Teachers include Donna Pegors, Nancy Carr, and Patricia Berlin for voice; James Stuart and Italo Tajo for opera; Lenna Kaleva for opera make-up; and W.K. Fauser for opera costuming.
While Dr. Robison loves to perform opera, she has an equally great passion for directing opera and passing along her love of this medium to her students through university opera programs. While completing doctoral work at the University of Cincinnati, she crafted a cognate in opera direction and production, and a number of doctoral students chose to follow her lead in the years following. She has also pioneered opera programs at some of the institutions at which she worked, including Delta State University and John Brown University. In 1990, she participated as a director with the Wesley Balk Insitute, a summer program focused on training singer-actors. She has directed a wide variety of operas, musicals, and opera scenes programs, including:
After completing coursework for her Master's degree, Dr. Robison began her teaching career at the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 1976. She had 40 students, acted as vocal coach for university musicals, and actively participated in the University's opera productions. She has also served on faculty at Mansfield University, John Brown University, and Delta State University where she taught courses in lyric diction and vocal pedagogy, and facilitated voice class; she also directed opera at all four of these institutions.
Dr. Robison is a long-standing and active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She has had students place in local, state, or regional NATS competitions since 1986.
Many of her students from Biola have continued their studies at premier graduate schools here and abroad, including Eastman, Peabody, Manhattan School of Music, AJ Fletcher Opera Program, University of Michigan, Boston University, Florida State, Guild Hall, and the Royal Academy in London. Her students have continued to sing professionally both regionally and internationally.
Faith in Action
Having substantial experience in the professional music world, Dr. Robison desires to prepare her students to act as ambassadors for Christ in a field in which a wide range of world views are represented. "I tell my students that the performing world is one of the greatest mission fields," she notes. "They must learn to love those who have differing opinions while standing firm in their faith. They will be tested." She hopes that her students interested in professional opera would become committed storytellers and would represent Christ to their colleagues. For her students looking to teach at the collegiate level, she hopes that they would be humble learners who would always be seeking new ways to help students reach their fullest potential.
As a teacher, she hopes to lead students to listen closely for God's leading in their lives. She recalls the ways that God completely changed her initial plan of teaching at the elementary level after graduation. As a teacher and mentor, her desire for her students is that they would also experience the blessing of following God's direction. "Besides the musical skills to pursue the vocation or a vocation they feel God is calling them to, I endeavor to encourage them to listen to God's call in their lives. Often students will come asking me what I think they should do with their lives and future. Though I may give them some advice, I ultimately come back to the question, 'What do you sense God is directing you to do?'"
Serving at Biola since 1995, Dr. Robison has worked hard to share her rich experiences of studying opera with her students. She pioneered the opera program at Biola in 1996, which expanded from an opera scenes program to a major opera production with orchestral accompaniment almost every year, the most recent of which was Cosi fan tutte earlier this year. She considers the opera program a vital part of a singer's Conservatory education: "If we want to recruit the best singers, we need to give them opportunities performing opera." Knowing the high caliber of students who choose to attend Biola, Dr. Robison wants to provide them with the high-quality educational experiences that have prepared alumni before them for the career paths God has set before them. Examples include Katie Van Kooten (2001) who made her international debut at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and continues to perform internationally; Jessica Howard Stavros (2005) who is a contract player with the Opera am Rhein; and Dr. Louima Lilite (1999) who is the current head of the Voice Area at Oklahoma Baptist University. Dr. Robison considers it a great honor to have been called to be a part of their training.
Dr. Robison considers such gifted students to be a primary aspect that makes the Biola community unique. She notes, "The most special aspect about being a faculty member here is using one's gifts to serve the students. I am honored that God called me to be a part of the training of the exceptionally talented students that have come to major in voice here over the last 22 years."