Maestro Jon Robertson returns to preach for the First Congregational Church of Redlands on March 10th. Jon enjoys a distinguished career as a pianist, conductor and academician. He is the retiring conductor and music director of the Redlands Symphony, and has made guest conducting appearances nationally and internationally. But we also know Jon as an anointed preacher. He is a student of the Bible and Theology, and has an inspirational message to share. We are blessed to have him with us at the Congregational Church of Redlands during this 2016 Easter Season.
Jon's career as a concert pianist began at age nine with his debut in Town Hall, New York, with the New York Times calling him a pint-sized Paderewski. As a child prodigy and student of the renowned pianist and teacher Ethel Leginska, he continued to concertize throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Europe. Already established as a brilliant concert pianist, he was awarded full scholarship six consecutive years to the Juilliard School, where he earned his B.M., M.S. and D.M.A. degrees in piano performance as a student of Beveridge Webster. Although his degrees were in piano performance, he also studied choral conducting with Abraham Kaplan and orchestral conducting with Richard Pittman of the New England Conservatory of Music.
After completing a master’s degree at the Juilliard School, he was appointed chair of the Department of Music at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. Among the many accomplishments realized during his tenure, the highlight was the tour of the college choir and Huntsville Symphony to Los Angeles, California, performing Verdi’s Requiem to a rave review by the Los Angeles Times. In 1970, Robertson returned to the Juilliard as a Ford Foundation Scholar to complete his Doctorate of Musical Arts. At the conclusion of his degree, he once again performed with the Oakwood College choir and the American Symphony, performing Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall to critical acclaim in the New York Times.
In 1972, Robertson became Chair of the Thayer Conservatory of Music at Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts, where he instituted the highly successful Thayer Preparatory Division; began the Thayer Conservatory Orchestra; tripled enrollment, renovated and refurbished the historical Thayer Mansion, home of the Thayer Conservatory; and led the New England Sinfonia on their successful national tour in 1975. He later traveled to Sweden and East Germany to become the first and only private student of Maestro Herbert Blomstedt, currently conductor and music director of the Gewanthaus Orchestra, Leipzig. After a well-received guest conducting appearance with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra in Norway, he was immediately engaged as conductor and music director in 1979 and served until 1987. Under his dynamic leadership, the orchestra enjoyed critical acclaim, along with consecutive sold-out seasons. While director of the symphony, he was also invited to conduct the National Norwegian Opera Company in six performances of La Boheme, as well as yearly productions with the Kristiansand Opera Company.
First appearing in Redlands, California, as guest conductor in the spring of 1982, Maestro Robertson became the conductor and music director of the Redlands Symphony Orchestra in the fall of that year and is currently in his twenty-seventh successful season with that ensemble. During his tenure, ticket sales have increased to capacity houses. In addition, the Redlands Symphony has enjoyed the distinction of receiving the highest ranking possible from the California Arts Council, as well as top ranking with the National Endowment for the Arts.
As guest conductor, Maestro Robertson has conducted orchestras nationally and internationally, including: the San Francisco Symphony at Stern Grove, later returning for their subscription series in Davies Hall; American Symphony, New York; Fairbanks Symphony, Fairbanks, Alaska; Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach, California; Oakland East Bay Symphony, Oakland, California; Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra, Walla, Walla, Washington; Gavel Symphony Orchestra, Gavel, Sweden; Tronheim Symphony Orchestra, Tronheim, Norway; and the Beijing Central Philharmonic, China. He is a regular guest conductor of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in Egypt and was the principal guest conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Yerevan from 1995-98. Maestro Robertson has also conducted the Bratislava Chamber Orchestra, at the Pianofest Austria at Bad Aussee, Austria and most recently in Cape Town, South Africa and at the University of Stellenbosch International Festival.
From 1992-2004, Robertson served as Chair of the Department of Music at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). During his tenure, the department gained national and international recognition, attracting world-renowned faculty and highly gifted students, thus creating a world class department of music. Robertson was recognized at the Presidents Recognition Dinner for being instrumental in raising more than two million dollars for scholarships, as well as the expansion of the Opera department and Music Theater through the Gluck Foundation and other donors.
Robertson also created the Music Outreach Program targeting inner city African-American and Latino students at designated high schools and junior high schools. On a weekly basis, music students from UCLA gave private lessons to students who were enrolled in music programs at selected inner city schools in Los Angeles. Funding for this program was raised through interested donors, therefore this exceptional program was created at no cost to the institution.
Furthermore, following the reception of a grant from the Toyota Foundation, these students were also tutored in math and reading in preparation for the SAT exams. In order to complement the work accomplished at their respective schools, students were bused to UCLA for practice SAT tests. Thanks to the Music Outreach Program, a number of students were admitted to UCLA, and 98 percent of the students in the program went on to colleges in the United States. As a result of this program’s success, Robertson was the recipient of the President’s Award for Outreach Programs.
Adding to the numerous awards received throughout his illustrious career, Robertson is a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Loma Linda University, California for the cultural development of the Greater Inland Empire of San Bernardino, California.
In recent years Robertson has served as the dean of the Lynn University Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton, Florida (formerly The Harid Conservatory). Under his visionary leadership, the conservatory joined the ranks of major conservatories and institutions of music, boasting a world-renowned faculty of performers and scholars. The conservatory is both highly selective and international, accepting students from fourteen foreign countries. With an intentional enrollment of just under 100 students, only the most talented applicants are accepted and mentored by the extraordinary faculty.