Naked on the Bench

My Adventures in Pianoland

Non-Fiction - Memoir
374 Pages
Reviewed on 10/03/2013
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Author Biography

    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Naked on The Bench: My Adventures in Pianoland is an engaging memoir written by Robin Spielberg, a renowned composer, pianist, and recording artist. As a child, Robin has a recurring dream and this will have a lasting impact on the little girl. Hyperactive and obviously talented, she believes everyone goes through life with music playing in their minds like she does. She also chronicles her life as a budding artist and regales her readers with her triumphs and failures. In New York, she divides her time between playing the piano in upscale places and acting in theater, eventually ending up as one of the founders of a theater company. As she tells of her professional struggles as an artist, we also get a glimpse of the trials and triumphs in her personal life and this makes her story quite endearing.

There is no doubt that Robin Spielberg leads a charmed life but reading her memoir makes me realize that the lady is exceedingly charming herself. She tells her story with sprinklings of wit and humor, and dashes of sadness and sorrow. With careful attention to detail, she takes us with her as she traverses her path to follow her dreams. Her book is full of funny narratives about a young woman who is not only passionate about her art but also about life in general. Indeed, this memoir is a must-read for all who are trying to find their place in the world. In the end, one cannot help but admire Spielberg’s drive and determination, not only to reach the pinnacle of success but most especially to find the real measure of her triumphs.

Kathy Parsons

"Naked On the Bench: My Adventures in Pianoland" is the delightful memoir of pianist/composer Robin Spielberg, one of my favorite artists ever. Robin and I have been friends for many years, so although there were not a lot of surprises for me in the book, reading it was like getting to know Robin all over again. An extraordinarily positive and upbeat person, Robin tells her stories with humor, wisdom, and total honesty. The book is divided into six parts plus a prologue, so the stories aren't always in chronological order, but jumping back and forth in time allows the book to read like a compelling collection of short stories grouped by common themes.

The book begins with a recurring childhood dream where Robin discovers secret rooms inside her piano and is able to meet regularly with a grandfather she had never met and to hear him play. From those magical moments, we travel through the life of a budding artist from her hyperactive childhood thinking everyone must have an orchestra playing in their heads like she did to the poised and polished concert artist she is now. Quite a few chapters recount the years in New York City when Robin played in upscale piano rooms during much of the day and acted in theater productions by night. One of the founding members of the Atlantic Theater Company, she was able to juggle her pianist and acting selves for an impressive period of time, and many of those stories are enlightening, laugh-out-loud funny, and tear-jerking - some all at the same time! Robin also tells her very human stories of love lost, true love found, and the miracle of her daughter, Valerie.

What makes Robin Spielberg's concert performances truly exceptional is the way she is able to draw her audience into her music with the stories behind each piece and her very personal and "naked" style of playing. As a writer, she is able to do the same thing, letting us see inside her head and get to know the heart and soul of a true artist - the ups and downs of a life that chooses you rather than the opposite, the joys and sorrows, the insecurities that plague all artists as well as the experiences that bring confidence and stage presence. If you love Robin's music, this book is a must-read. If you don't know her music, I can guarantee that the book will seduce you into Pianoland.

Very highly recommended!

Linda Carroll

I had expected Robin Spielberg's Memoir, "Naked on the Bench" to be a smooth ride over the plains of "pianoland". Instead, I found her story a journey which traversed mountains and valleys of emotions and ideas. I laid aside everything else to complete the book in two days. Robin's recollections are inspiring and meaningful to me. As I read about her struggles and triumphs, I laughed, cried, and did both simultaneously. As one interested in the creative process and the relationship between life and art, I appreciated the insight into the events that sparked Robin's creativity and which underlie her musical pieces I love so well. As a fellow pianist, I can relate to Robin's reflections. Whenever I've played her compositions for our church services, there are always compliments about the music and questions about the composer (such as, "Who is Robin Spielberg? I've never heard of him!")

More than an exciting journey, I found nuggets of wisdom which Robin relayed from her mentors and sometimes from her own experience. "Already there" has become my new mantra. And I need to have Robin's courage to allow my soul to be "naked on the bench".

Having been privileged to accompany Robin on her piano pilgrimage, I can now listen to and play her music with fresh insight.
Linda Carroll

Curtis Osmun

Phenomenal Read!
I've enjoyed Robin's music for awhile now, taking comfort from the positive energies found within her phenomenal recordings. Her compositions help me deal with stresses in my personal life, in addition to my recovery from cancer over this past year. Like her music, Robin's memoir is no less wondrous and unique in its presentation. As an author, she fearlessly recounts stories from her life in humorous and sometimes heartbreaking detail, providing sensitive insight throughout. If anyone is fulfilling their mission in this life, I'd bet on Spielberg. If you've felt touched while listening to Robin's music, I challenge you not to be touched while reading her memoir as well. Also, if you've never even heard of Robin Spielberg, then its high time you were introduced. Prepare to be inspired.

Brett Lowell

This memoir is wonderful on so many levels! I tried unsuccessfully to pace myself in reading it because I didn't want it to end. First, this is a hilarious, touching, insightful story about growing up as an artist/musician, and being "different" from all the other boys and girls. Every artist/musician will be able to identify with that part of the book.

Next, a brutally honest look about what it means to try to turn a passion for the arts into a this case acting. This book should be given to every young aspiring actor to see what it REALLY means to try to make a career in it.

Finally, as Robin learns to make a career out of music, what it REALLY means to be a professional performing artist. It breaks open imagined story book tales of glamour, and shows the nuts and bolts of what it's about.

Throughout she shares her experiences and what she learns with lots of humor (I literally LOLed...a lot!), with compassion, and incredible intimacy. She really lays bare her soul. If you're familiar with her music or have been to her concerts you will know what I mean. And if you're not, you're in for a treat as you discover this beautiful person who magnanimously shares her window on life with us...after all, isn't that what being an artist is about?

Dean Brown

I highly recommend this book. As others have aptly stated it is a humorous, honest, and engaging story...a great read! While reading the book I found myself uncharacteristically retelling sections to family and friends, sections I found especially funny or surprising. It's that good!

I've been a devoted fan of Robin's music for many years. From her book I learned that the first CD of hers that I purchased was actually the first one she had distributed; I believe it was the only one available at that time. So, in a way, I was there from the beginning stages of her solo career. I've had a chance to hear her in person on three occasions (alas, I live too far away from her usual venues, or I would be a regular member of audiences). In her concerts, her stories were as beautiful and fun as her music, When I learned she had written a book I had no doubt it would be great. I was right. She is a first class storyteller.

This is not a book about a performing diva or inaccessible artist. This is the story about a person who is real, grounded, and endearingly human. As you read her story you feel like this is a person with whom you'd love to chat for a couple of hours in a coffee shop, or sitting on a bench in her garden.

Hers is a story of someone who was destined to be a musician, composer, entrepreneur, and story teller. Her life's journey was not easy; it can be a challenge to see and hear the world differently than others your age. She discovered a love of acting, and challenged that art form until she concluded that it would not satisfy her passions. Her passion was with her all along: music.

As an actor I most appreciated the book's final chapter. I will never approach another play without recalling its wisdom. But, you don't have to be an actor, or pianist, or composer to enjoy and appreciate this book. You don't have to be familiar with Robin's music to enjoy this book. You just need to be someone who enjoys a good book.
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I was drawn to Naked on the Bench for many reasons--great title, an artist's journey, a woman's memoir, and a love affair with music set in NY. Robin Spielberg's funny, revealing, emotional storytelling delivers on all counts! This is a great time-travel read taking the reader from her early days as an NYU actress in the 80s and founding member of The Atlantic Theater company, through the "survival-job" era of playing piano in hotel lobbies across NYC, to receiving notice & acclaim as composer of her own original music which has taken her on tours all over the world. Spielberg's writing is both light-hearted and brutally honest, able to take you through the highs and lows of her professional and personal life as she grows as an artist, pianist, and mother. A truly rewarding read for anyone interested in women's stories, women in the arts, and how one person listened to her own calling and with a lot of hard work & self-love turned it into a rewarding career with a recognized following of devoted fans. Beautiful!

Elaine Osmun

Funny...insightful...heart wrenching...real. I loved every minute of it. I loved it so much I loaned it to my best girlfriend, because I just couldn't wait for her to get her own copy, and I needed someone close to discuss it with. She's reading it now.

a Michigan Reader

I just got through reading this book and want to comment on how much I enjoyed reading it. It held my attention throughout and the authors warmth, personality, sense of humor and charm came "shining through." Such a feel good experience!

Ken B

This is a wonderful story behind the making of a professional pianist, a collection of vignettes that lets the reader feel the emotional roller coaster endured by this performing artist. If you ever dreamed of following this path, or simply know someone who has, you should read her book. It is a fast and fun read.

R Nick

A surprising pleasure! This book is more than interesting, it is fun reading full of unexpected humor. I couldn't put it down. Another great accomplishment from a super talent. Get the book, it will surprise and please.