Twenty-five years after Reginald Robinson’s emergence as a young, self-taught, against the grain pianist and composer, he has become an internationally recognized pianist, recording artist and educator.
His love for music started in 1984 with his brother Marlando playing big band jazz records at home. Reginald became interested in ragtime in 7th grade when a city funded arts program gave an assembly with a live jazz ensemble. The assembly was led by jazz trumpeter Orbert Davis and included in the band other jazz luminaries like saxophonist Ari Brown. In the middle of the show the group played a sample of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. Reginald decided this was the kind of music he wanted to play. That year his parents purchased a small electronic keyboard and the following year a full size acoustic piano. With his parents not being able to afford him a music education, he began to teach himself how to read and write music. This involved self quizzing from music education books, creating his own piano exercises and studying published music scores and recordings.
1992 marked the year Reginald’s professional music career began. He was introduced by fellow musicians to musician Jon Weber who immediately funded Reginald’s first demo called The Strongman. The demo was later used as part of his 1993 Delmark debut release by the same name.
In 1995 Reginald scored original music for “Each One As She May” a play by Frank Galati and that same year received a nomination for best original music at the Joseph Jefferson Awards. In 2003 his music was used as part of “Intimate Apparel” a play by Lynn Nottage which was nominated for best music director at the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Theatre Awards. In 2004, he was awarded the rare and distinguished John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Award for his innovation in ragtime.
Reginald composed music for a film by Zeinabu Irene Davis “Compensation” (2000) and served as a contributing historian to Barbara E. Allen’s 2010 PBS documentary, “Chicago’s Black Metropolis.” Reginald lectures at colleges across the United States and collects and preserves historical materials related to ragtime and African American classical music. In June of 2017, Reginald worked with Illinois Humanities to present “An Evening at the Pekin Theatre” which recreated the first owned and operated African American music theatre in the world which was located in Chicago’s Bronzeville district.