Paula Robison was born in Tennessee to a family of actors, writers, dancers, and musicians. She spent her childhood in Southern California, learned to play the flute in her school orchestra, and studied dance with Bella Lewitsky and theatre with Jeff Corey. When she was twelve years old music claimed her heart and she knew she wanted to become a flutist.
Study at the Juilliard School followed, with summers at the Marlboro Music Festival. When she was twenty years old, Leonard Bernstein invited her to be a soloist with the New York Philharmonic. When she gave her New York recital debut under the auspices of Young Concert Artists, the New York Times wrote: “Music bursts from her as naturally as leaves from trees”. Soon after that Paula Robison became the first American to win First Prize at the Geneva International Competition, and her career as a world-traveling groundbreaking flute soloist was launched.
When the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center was formed Ms. Robison was invited to join as a founding Artist Member. She performed with the Society for twenty seasons. During the same time she was co-director with Scott Nickrenz of the chamber music concerts at the Spoleto Festivals, presenting many great artists early in their careers. She was awarded the Adelaide Ristori Prize for her contribution to Italian cultural life.
There is a dessert named after her at the Tric-Trac Café in Spoleto, Italy, called the “Coppa Paola”, and a song written for her by Sean Harkness called “Paula”.
A passionate advocate for new music, Paula Robison has commissioned works by Leon Kirchner, Toru Takemitsu, Robert Beaser, Kenneth Frazelle, Oliver Knussen, and Lowell Liebermann, and premiered music by Pierre Boulez, Alberto Ginastera, Elliott Carter, William Schuman, Kieth Jarrett, and Carla Bley, among many others. ”Notturno”, a wildly lyrical hymn to the joys and pains of a life in music, was written for Ms. Robison by Michael Tilson Thomas, and the two artists performed the work together in February of 2008 with Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony.