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Robinson wins state NATS classical category

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By John Overby

The stage has been Aaron Robinson’s friend since elementary school.

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Only a year after the Central Kentucky Community Theatre opened, Robinson, now a sophomore at Bethlehem High School, was introduced to the joys of the creative arts.

He couldn’t get enough of performing, and it wasn’t long until he landed a major role, portraying Charlie Bucket in the theater’s production of “Willy Wonka.”

And that was only the beginning.

He has landed roles in “about 15” other musicals since then and won a Jeannie Award for “Best Actor in a Central Kentucky Youth Actors Production” earlier this year.

But, approximately six months ago, his success on the theater stage led him to another creative outlet: singing.

“The local theater gave me the confidence to get up on stage and not be afraid of getting up and performing,” Robinson said. “Just the experience I’ve gained doing that has helped me move into some other aspects of creativity.”

After searching for the right voice teacher, Robinson and his family found Mark Kano, a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and an instructor of voice and opera workshop at Centre College.
Robinson quickly learned that there was more to singing than he had ever dreamed of.

“I learned a lot of technical points with Mr. Kano,” Robinson said. “A very large portion of singing is that there’s a lot of breathing involved. You also have to form vowels and consonants a certain way. You have to stand a certain way. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’ve already learned a lot in the few months taking lessons.”

Robinson’s lessons soon found him back in a familiar spot: the stage.
Shortly after working with Kano on the “technicalities of singing,” Robinson began studying classical music.

“I really respect that genre because of how difficult it is,” Robinson said. “You don’t know how hard it is until you go up there and do it. There’s so much practice that you have to do just to get everything right.”

Robinson took quickly to his new craft, though, and was soon ready for his first competition.

His first challenge was the UK Vocal Competition for Young Singers, an event that pitted Robinson against 40 other students.

The top 10 students would move on to the finals. Robinson missed the finals by a single spot.

“I was just happy to come in 11th for my first competition,” Robinson said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do that…I just went in thinking whatever’s going to happen will happen. I can’t give more than I have.”

Just a few weeks later, Robinson performed in his second competition: the high school “Classical” category of the Kentucky NATS Student Auditions.
Robinson believes that the UK competition helped him come to terms with the fact that “the judging is all relative.”

“I started to realize that it was just the opinion of the three people sitting there,” Robinson said. “One group might like you but another might not. It’s very subjective. Knowing that kind of helped calm my nerves, I think.”

Robinson would be performing three songs that were chosen by Kano for the event, pieces that his teacher thought would best suit his pupil’s singing style.

Kano’s selections were “Tu lo sai,” “O Mistress Mine” and “If I Loved You.”  
Even though Robinson hadn’t even heard of some of these pieces before he began studying under Kano, he couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.

“I felt very comfortable with my performance,” Robinson said. “It didn’t matter if the judges liked it or not because I was comfortable with it. Luckily, they seemed to like it as well.”

They liked it so much, in fact, that they named Robinson the winner of his division before he had performed his final piece, although there was nothing formal about how he found this out.

Robinson wasn’t told directly that he had won. Rather, he found it out when his assigned number for the event flashed across a screen.

“They just posted my number,” Robinson said. “I saw it there, saw it was by itself, and that’s when I knew I had no one else to compete against in the finals.”

Knowing that his final song could just be a laid-back performance, Robinson went into the finals with a weight lifted from his shoulders, a weight that would have most likely increased.

While the first two rounds were in rooms with only the three judges, Robinson’s final performance was in a recital hall in front of everyone that was present at the event.

“It was very intimidating,” Robinson said. “There would have been a bit more pressure in that round, but knowing I had already won, everything kind of balanced out.”

Up next for Robinson will be the Mid-South Regional NATS Student Auditions on April 4-5, 2014 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Robinson’s victory has given him more confidence in his ability to perform, but he also knows that regionals will be “a whole new ball game.”

“I don’t really know what to expect up there,” Robinson said, “but I assume there will be a lot of talented singers. I just hope I’m as good as them.”

And while singing is a newfound passion, his first love of the stage still remains. He regularly performs at the Stephen Foster Amphitheatre, and he’ll also be featured in Jekyll and Hyde for the CKCT in January.

Robinson’s not sure yet what he wants to do for a career, but he does know that he would be thrilled for it to be in some aspect of the arts.

“I certainly would like to do something in the creative or performing arts,” Robinson said. “Just anything involved in the creative process would be nice, whether it’s being in the theatre or singing, being in movies or even behind the camera directing. There are just a lot of possibilities out there right now that I’m excited to explore.”