Mrs. Earnestine Rodgers Robinson is an African American award-winning musical composer whose oratorios have graced Carnegie Hall. A child of segregation, Robinson fought her way past oppression and poverty to compose pieces like “The Crucifixion”, which is now in the U.S. Library of Congress. The piece, which was produced by her son Tony Robinson, MD, Ph.D, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1997.
Earnestine Rodgers Robinson was born in Memphis, Tennessee to a family of 13. She studied at Fisk University but graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in mathematics. Robinson always focused her attention on the sciences, receiving graduate degrees in philosophy and medical ethics. She had no idea that she was interested in music until she was asked to work on the Easter play at her church – much later in life than most artists begin honing their craft.
One day in 1972, Robinson was preparing to study for the play and opened the Bible to John 3:16. Instead of reading the scripture, she sang the verse, thus opening herself up to the idea of a career in fine arts. Robinson would soon release her first piece, “For God So Loved The World.”
Robinson never received formal musical training. Only eight years after she was inspired by the holiday play at church, Robinson’s compositions were featured in Billboard Magazine. “The Crucifixion” became the focus piece for the 1995 musical special “A Woman and Her Music,” which aired across the country on PBS. That same piece carried Robinson to the stage at Carnegie Hall. Her work was adored by national outlets like CNN and NPR.
The unlikely composer would return to Carnegie Hall in 2001 for her piece entitled “The Nativity.” The piece has been received in both the United States and Europe.
The life and work of Earnestine Rodgers Robinson is the core of a new documentary called “Sounds of a Miracle” which has been screened at several film festivals.
Robinson is currently working on her latest piece oratorio, “The Ten Commandments”, which is scheduled to premiere at Carnegie Hall and at the prestigious Lincoln Center.