Pianist shares passion for healing music
By Ruth Nerhaugen
She also will make a special appearance at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing to talk about another role she fills. Spielberg is celebrity artist spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association.
Her daughter’s premature birth in 1998 affirmed the therapeutic effects of music for her, Spielberg said. She’d been a musician all her life and knew that she felt most centered and whole when playing music, so she made music for her daughter during the little girl’s four-month stay in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Singing lullabies to their babies is a natural instinct for many mothers, she pointed out. “I played piano for her. I put her bassinet on top of the piano so she could feel the vibrations, too,” Spielberg said. The positive effects were evident.
Over the next 16 years — as her daughter grew to become a young woman who plays marimba, vibes and piano — Spielberg investigated the phenomenon and became an advocate.
“Music therapy is such an astounding field. I enjoyed watching it grow,” she said.
“I’d like to clear up some of the confusion,” she added. Many groups use music to promote wellness, but “Music therapy itself is a profession, just like an occupational therapist or a doctor.”
“It’s a medical field,” she added, requiring specific education, and can be done in a variety of settings with the therapist working one on one with a client to help with pain, learning, memory or other concerns.
Spielberg will speak about the connections between music and wellness and perform at noon Thursday in the Garden View Café at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. This free Sheldon Presents program is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts.
Another result of her experience performing for her infant daughter was a CD, “Beautiful Dreamer,” filled with lullabies.
“I’ve been putting people to sleep for over a decade,” Spielberg quipped. She continues to donate $1 from each sale to music therapy research.
The Sheldon concert will cover the breadth of Spielberg’s music. She also performs American standards, holiday tunes, Americana melodies and more.
Her debut recording on her Mountain Music Label, “Dreaming of Summer,” topped charts in several Asian countries. One of the tracks, an improvisation on Canon in D, has been a best-selling download on iTunes for 14 years and is the soundtrack for an award-winning Korean TV drama.
Spielberg made her Carnegie Hall debut in a sold-out performance in 1997 and has returned there twice. She’s also been on PBS and network television, and her music has been heard on History Channel and in several documentaries.
In addition, several ballroom dance teams and events have used her music for their waltzes — something she considers “one of the highest compliments ever.” She has sold hundreds of thousands of her 17 recordings.
For her Red Wing concert, Spielberg will spotlight music from her newest CD, “Another Time, Another Place.”
“I’ve been fascinated with the mysteries of time since I was a little girl,” she said. She fantasizes about going back in time or into the future.
The Sheldon appearance also is part of Spielberg’s current “book release concert tour.”
She has released an award-winning memoir, “Naked on the Bench: My Adventures in Pianoland,” and will read excerpts from the book during the performance. Spielberg admitted that she got the title from an experience she had performing at a “clothing optional” resort.
Copies of the book and CDs will be available that night at the Sheldon. Spielberg encouraged people to check her out on social media in advance so they know what to expect. Her website is www.robinspielberg.com.
For more information, visit www.sheldontheatre.