• Musicians of the NSO

Musician Monday: Robert Marler

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Pianist Bob Marler came to Nashville in 1979 to teach at Belmont University, performing occasionally with the Symphony as early as 1983, until he officially joined in 2010. He is a frequent soloist, chamber musician, orchestra musician and accompanist throughout the Midwest and South and has performed with instrumentalists from renowned orchestras worldwide, including the London Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and others. In his interview we discuss some of the intricacies of orchestral piano playing, his passion for cycling, and how he used to play organ at the rodeo! Please enjoy!

๐˜พ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ก๐™™ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ก๐™ก ๐™ช๐™จ ๐™–๐™—๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐™ช๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™ฆ๐™ช๐™š ๐™ง๐™ค๐™ก๐™š ๐™–๐™จ ๐™– ๐™ฅ๐™ž๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ค๐™ง๐™˜๐™๐™š๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™–?

The piano was not included that much in the orchestra before the 20th century. At the turn of the century, composers began incorporating it more, until the piano became fairly common. There are elaborate parts in Stravinskyโ€™s โ€œPetrushkaโ€ and โ€œSymphony in Three Movements,โ€ as well as several difficult piano parts in the symphonies of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Many of the new works that we record by American composers use the piano as a standard orchestral instrument. Their piano parts range from extremely complicated works as difficult as any solo music, to roles that support the orchestra in a more rhythmic or percussive manner. Some of the most challenging piano parts that we have recorded by American composers include works by Roberto Sierra, John Corigliano, and John Adams. At times Iโ€™ve had to spend more time learning these orchestral excerpts than Iโ€™ve spent learning complete works from the standard solo repertory!

๐™’๐™๐™ค ๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐™›๐™–๐™ซ๐™ค๐™ง๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™š ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ข๐™ฅ๐™ค๐™จ๐™š๐™ง ๐™›๐™ค๐™ง ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ฅ๐™ž๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ค, ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ญ๐™ฉ ๐™ค๐™› ๐™ค๐™ง๐™˜๐™๐™š๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™–๐™ก ๐™ข๐™ช๐™จ๐™ž๐™˜? Itโ€™s difficult to say, it often depends on what we are playing at the time. I have really enjoyed playing the music of John Williams during our movie series concerts. His works are often very elaborate, but nearly always idiomatic for the instrument. The keyboard writing really fits the hand and may not be as difficult as it sounds. He certainly is the greatest film composer ever, and it was such an honor to have John Williams conduct our opening concert a couple of years ago. I really had to work on those Harry Potter pieces, knowing he would be there conducting them!

๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐™–๐™—๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™– ๐™›๐™–๐™ซ๐™ค๐™ง๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™š ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ข๐™ฅ๐™ค๐™จ๐™š๐™ง ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™œ๐™š๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ง๐™–๐™ก? Currently my favorite composer is Rachmaninov. Iโ€™m currently working on the Sonata for Cello and Piano, perhaps my favorite piece.

๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐™™๐™ž๐™™ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ข๐™š ๐™ฉ๐™ค ๐™‰๐™–๐™จ๐™๐™ซ๐™ž๐™ก๐™ก๐™š, ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ฌ๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™™๐™ค ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™ก๐™ž๐™ ๐™š ๐™ข๐™ค๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™—๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™˜๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ฎ? I came to Nashville many years ago to teach at Belmont University, where I am still a Professor in the School of Music. It is almost unbelievable how much Nashville and Belmont have changed during that time. Nashville has grown into a major city supporting fabulous arts organizations like the Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera and Nashville Symphony. Belmontโ€™s School of Music has also expanded, going from around 100 music majors when I first arrived, to more than 800 this year. The improvements in all Nashville Arts have contributed to the continued growth and success of Belmontโ€™s School of Music. It is an honor to be a musician in Nashville with a nationally acclaimed orchestra with many Grammyโ€™s to its credit, and I would not choose to live in any other city but Music City!

๐™’๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™ง๐™š ๐™จ๐™ค๐™ข๐™š ๐™ค๐™› ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐™๐™ค๐™—๐™—๐™ž๐™š๐™จ ๐™ค๐™›๐™› ๐™ค๐™› ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ข๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ? I love to hike Radnor Lake โ€“ one of the most beautiful places in the country โ€“ and I periodically return to cycling for some great exercise and to clear my head. Biking has contributed to the biggest adventures of my life. At three different times, I biked from the west coast to Nashville with my friend and colleague, Michael Harrington. The last trip was 3400 miles! Years later I can still tell stories about things that happened on every day of those trips: like being asked to stay in a jail in the Navajo nation for our safety, rather than camping on the reservation or biking the long desolate road called, โ€œTrail of the Graves,โ€ across the desert in 100 degree heat. Aside from that I also especially like technology. I enjoy computers and Iโ€™m always looking for high tech toys.

๐™„๐™› ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™ฌ๐™š๐™ง๐™š๐™ฃ'๐™ฉ ๐™– ๐™˜๐™ก๐™–๐™จ๐™จ๐™ž๐™˜๐™–๐™ก ๐™ฅ๐™ž๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฉ, ๐™ฌ๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ข๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ ๐™ฌ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ก๐™™ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™๐™–๐™ซ๐™š ๐™ก๐™ž๐™ ๐™š๐™™ ๐™ฉ๐™ค ๐™ฅ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฎ, ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ฌ๐™๐™ฎ? I grew up in my familyโ€™s music store in Southeast Missouri and was always around all kinds of instruments. I chose trombone in high school and continued to take lessons even while in college. Piano became my primary instrument at around ten, but I was often asked to demonstrate other instruments for sale in our store. I began teaching private piano at the store at age 13. Another interesting childhood job was playing at rodeos and horse shows on a Lowrey Organ in the back of a pickup truck with a Leslie speaker on top. Maybe this prepared me for the very different life I began when I entered college and became a certified classical music nerd in my serious piano studies!

๐™’๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™™๐™ค ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™š๐™ฃ๐™Ÿ๐™ค๐™ฎ ๐™ข๐™ค๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™—๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™ฅ๐™š๐™ง๐™›๐™ค๐™ง๐™ข๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ค๐™ง๐™˜๐™๐™š๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™–? One of the greatest gifts that I receive by being an orchestral pianist comes from having the best seat in the house. Many great works that we perform only have short excerpts for the keyboard, but when I am not playing, I really enjoy listening and watching my incredible colleagues perform. It is almost unbelievable how good they sound with such limited rehearsal time before a series of performances! I have to admit that I have missed an entrance, maybe more than once, because of focusing on the wonderful sounds of my colleagues. They are amazing even during the first reading!

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