ROBERT K. ANDERSON ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL
The Dr. and Mrs. Preston H. Gada Chair
Bob Anderson’s Bio: The Screenplay
At 5:45 am he fell asleep behind the wheel of his ‘67 Rambler “Rebel” station wagon. The wagon was filled with all his possessions, including a 1905 English bass and two bows. On top of the wagon was a huge bass trunk. It looked like a big brown sarcophagus tied down with yards of rope. Good thing he was parked in front of Irwin Auditorium in Durham when he fell asleep.
It was Oct. 23, 1971, Anderson’s first day with the NC Symphony; rehearsals would start in a few hours. The all-night trip started in his home town of Erie, Pennsylvania. As he drove through Pennsylvania, the hills were covered in beautiful fall colors. A big change came in the D.C. area, when all around in the evening was nothing but cement, a great knot of superhighways. Then came the biggest change, in Virginia. Suddenly everything was green again. Birds sang and bugs buzzed. It was still like summer down there!
I-95 was only half finished then through Virginia, so he took US-1 much of the time, taking a closer look at the surroundings through the headlights. Anderson pulled over at a little roadside picnic area for a rest stop and there was an historical marker noting a Civil War battle and Confederate forces involved. Spooky. He had entered terra incognita.
In 1971 the North Carolina Symphony played every nook and cranny of the state. During a concert at Lenoir-Rhyne College that very first season, Anderson walked through the auditorium at intermission looking for a water fountain. Passing up the aisle he heard his name called out: “Robert!” As he turned he saw none other than his kindergarten teacher, Ms. Skowden from back in Erie! He recognized her immediately and asked what brought her there. She was visiting a friend that lived nearby, and they decided to take in the concert. Small world?
That first year he auditioned for the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, and spent 14 years as assistant principal. It was great fun playing chamber music with some great musicians, teaching private students, coaching sectionals and having a summer blast. He was chosen Mr. EMF once, and Mr. Congeniality twice at the farcical “Mr. EMF” competitions.
Next season brought new North Carolina Symphony Music Director John Gosling, who was formerly conductor of the Erie Philharmonic! Gosling would soon bring down Ruthabeth Marsh (violin) and Ray Marsh (cello) who had played in the Erie Phil when Anderson played in the group in 11th and 12th grade. Smaller world?
Gosling made Anderson the assistant principal of the bass section, so that he would be Gosling’s principal during Little Symphony and perform the solos in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite. Little Symphony lasted about 10 weeks each season. The orchestra was split so that two 35 piece ensembles could play in the smaller towns. They toured separately and went to places like West Jefferson, Edenton, Boiling Springs, Sparta, Galax, VA and Cheraw, SC. They were truly musical gypsies. Remember: what happened in Little Symphony stays in Little Symphony.
Change has been good. The orchestra has played in some bigger places also: Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Orchestra Hall, Chicago. There have been three fine principal bassists to sit next to, and Anderson has been acting principal for a couple seasons during principal interregna.
Another change was the conception and inception of “Summerfest.” Clarinetists Jimmy Gilmore and Mike Cyzewski enlisted Bob’s aid in producing the first two Summerfests. Gerhardt Zimmermann helped a lot and Meredith College provided the venue. The musicians played on a profit-sharing basis the first year and it was a great success. The second year pay was guaranteed. The third year the North Carolina Symphony took over the series as Regency Park got involved and provided a permanent venue in Cary. Summerfest has become an important part of the orchestra’s year and the audiences love it!
Anderson has worn may hats at the North Carolina Symphony. He has worked stage crew, been Assistant Personnel Manager, Orchestra Committee member and Chairman and is currently on the Board of the Professional Musicians’ Association, Local 500, AF of M. He produced some special concerts: Nuclear Freeze Concert at Duke Chapel in 1987 with Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson and composer Robert Ward, along with musicians from the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte; a post 9-11 concert at Duke Chapel in 2001; and the Rolling Requiem (Mozart) on 9/11/2002 in Raleigh. These concerts were made possible with invaluable logistical support and the generous nature of the orchestra musicians, conductors and singers. They were great.
There are just a few musicians still in the North Carolina Symphony from the early seventies. We’ve played hard, negotiated vigorously, partied heartily, and enjoyed the musical growth of the orchestra. Now there are many fine young players joining us. It’s been a long road, and there are many notes left to play. Wish us luck!
Oh yeah, now all the regular stuff. Anderson graduated from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Oscar Zimmerman. He also studied with Robert Leininger (Pittsburgh Symphony at Chatauqua), and Henry Portnoi (Boston Symphony at Tanglewood). Along with the NCS and EMF he has performed as freelancer in the Skaneatleles (NY) Chamber Festival, Chatauqua NY, Savannah Symphony, and many chamber performances in the Triangle.
Anderson is instructor of double-bass at UNC Chapel Hill where he teaches private lessons, conducts bass class, leads orchestra sectionals and organizes the annual “Bass Blast’ in which the students present solos, bass ensembles and music for bass and other instruments. He also has a busy studio of private students at home in Raleigh.
His wife, Janice McLaughlin, is a fine pianist. They have an act called “The Singer Without Shame and the Accompanist Without Fame.” He sings (?) and they perform pop songs and piano tunes from 1897 to 1937: Gershwin, Joplin, Berlin, Waller, and the like. Bob and Janice have two wonderful children, Betty and Joseph, and their cat Smokey.