International Accompanist and Vocal Coach
Robin Bowman prior to his retirement in the summer of 2008 had been for twelve years the Head of Vocal Studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and for thirty years French consultant to the National Opera Studio. He also has a distinguished career as an accompanist and coach. Since retirement from the Guildhall School, he worked for eight years as coordinator of volunteers for the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, during which time he has become increasingly active at the Birmingham Conservatoire coaching individually all the singers in the institution, and giving weekly postgraduate vocal repertoire classes, as well as individual tuition to some of the postgraduate collaborative piano students.
Robin Bowman’s international career as an accompanist and chamber-music pianist spans more than forty years; he has numbered Gérard Souzay, Dawn Upshaw, Henry Herford, Lynne Dawson, Penelope Mackay, Richard Jackson and Katarina Jovanovic among his many performing partnerships. His favourite press notice, for a Wigmore Hall recital with Gérard Souzay, tells of ‘Robin Bowman’s discreetly supportive and infinitely imaginative accompaniments’.
In addition to his work with the National Opera Studio, he was for many years a coach for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Educated initially as a musicologist under Thurston Dart and then as a Lied-accompanist under Walther Gruner, Robin gained a unique depth of experience in French vocal repertoire from work as assistant to Pierre Bernac, the great French baritone and authority on singing in French for whom Poulenc wrote more than half of his songs. From 1971 until 2008 Robin taught French vocal repertoire at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. For twelve years he gave summer classes at the Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice, and continues working for two British Summer Schools. In most years he gives one or two masterclasses for the Oxford Lieder Festival in audition technique for those wishing to enter music college at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and has just completed a four-year term as specialist vocal external examiner for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He has taught and performed extensively in Japan and has experience as an international jury member for competitions and concours in both vocal and keyboard fields, including the 2013 Kathleen Ferrier Singing Competition.
Robin’s principal piano teachers were Thomas Rajna and Alan Rowlands, the latter sharing with Robin many of his insights as an enthusiast for - and later, teacher of - Alexander Technique. Robin’s own technical insights as performer and teacher draw additionally on concepts from Feldenkrais and Trager techniques, educational kinesiology, autogenics, and Inner Game principles. He still finds time to perform chamber concerts with instrumentalists as well as singers.
His numerous broadcasts and his discography as accompanist consist mainly of English language and French language repertoire - in particular a two-volume CD of sixty songs by Charles Ives with the baritone Henry Herford which gained a British Music Retailers Association Award. An English song recording with Nancy Argenta and Roderick Williams was issued in 2001 and gained a five-star review in the BBC Music Magazine. Partnering Henry Herford when the latter won first prize in the International American Music Competition at Carnegie Hall, New York, opened up an extensive American dimension to Robin’s work, including recordings, broadcasts and teaching at Tanglewood.
As a teacher, Robin is interested in exploring and cultivating the sources of imaginative interpretation for singers and pianists of every level. For twenty-five years he worked at a summer school called Summer Music, where he enormously enjoyed working with singers of beginner standard, alongside more advanced amateur and professional singers.