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Dr. Trineice M. Robinson-Martin is a world-class performer, researcher, and educator at Princeton University who dedicates her music-filled life to helping others find their own voices.
Since she was young, Robinson-Martin has pursued music in a variety of different styles — R&B, jazz, and gospel. Introducing herself as a “PK — preacher’s kid,” Robinson-Martin describes gospel as “just a part of who I am.”
Despite her deep connection to music, Robinson-Martin did not at first plan to pursue a career in the arts. “My freshman year, I was a chemical engineering major,” she said. But she switched to studying music after realizing that, “I mean, music is life.”
Robinson-Martin recounted that early in her vocal journey, she received criticism for having such a multifaceted music background. She recalls how, when singing Schubert, she was faulted for sounding like Sarah Vaughan. Or, Robinson-Martin said, “When I was singing R&B, they would say… I'm too jazzy. And then when I sang jazz, they’d say, ‘Man, I for sure hear that gospel!’ So I'm like, well, where the heck am I supposed to belong?”
Robinson-Martin was struck by the dichotomy between her personal voice and her voice as an academically trained singer. “Once I got my first Master's, I was perplexed, because … I was definitely a different person in lessons than I was at church,” she said. This led to Robinson-Martin’s realization that she was, musically, “such a chameleon.” Both “academia … and the music industry … don't necessarily celebrate people that can do a lot of things,” Robinson-Martin said.
After grappling for many years with the academic tendency to slot artists into specific genres, Robinson-Martin decided to embrace the different aspects of her musical background unapologetically: “I've decided that I am all of those things. And they're all a part of me,” she said.
Robinson-Martin made it her goal to understand the disconnect between academic singing and the singing she grew up with. “[It] led me to… being where I am now, as a pioneer in this field of vocal pedagogy for soul, gospel, and Black music in general,” she said.
In relation to certain music styles, “People [in academia] that have the knowledge of the voice didn't have the cultural memory or the understanding of the style to articulate it. And the people that have the style didn't have the knowledge … So, I found myself trying to bridge those things together,” Robinson-Martin said.
With this goal in mind, Robinson-Martin created a unique vocal music teaching methodology called “Soul Ingredients®” which, through blending science and soul, helps singers discover and express their unique vocal styles. To describe her pedagogy, Robinson-Martin identifies “Soul Ingredients®'' as “[having] an anatomical awareness.”
“We're training the voice: This is the jumping jacks and the lifting weights of the voice … Then I do something called style conditioning… , [or] exercises that are gear[ed] towards a particular style,” she said. Building on this foundation, then, Robinson-Martin “teach[es] people to sing their soul” in a specially designed class for educators called “When Science Meets Soul.”
In fact, it was in part her teaching that inspired Robinson-Martin to record her album “All or Nothing,” a jazz, gospel, classical, and R&B fusion album scheduled for release on Aug. 6 that pays homage to both her teaching and her multifaceted musical interests.
Robinson-Martin originally wrote one of her songs in the album, “If This Is Love — The Very Thought of You,” as a vocal exercise for a student who was “having troubles with the -‘Ih’ sound.”
Throughout her album, Robinson-Martin sings to both herself and others. She remains true to her promise to not compromise herself by “fit[ting] into a box.”
“My purpose on this earth… ,” she said, “is to enlighten … whether I'm doing that in the classroom, or whether I'm doing that through my music. Every time someone encounters me, I want them to think about something different. I want what I say to have impacted them in some way.”
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