Dean, Conservatory of Music, Lynn University
Reviewing the debut performance of 9-year-old pianist Jon Robertson at New York’s Town Hall, the New York Times called him a “pint-sized Paderewski.” It’s no surprise this Jamaican-born prodigy would achieve a long and distinguished career as a musician and guest conductor for top symphonies around the world. Academia followed, and after a dozen years chairing the music department at UCLA, Robertson brought his passion for music to Lynn University beginning in 2005. Since then, he’s elevated Lynn’s conservatory to one of the world’s finest.
What have you done to raise the stature of this university’s conservatory?
One of the interesting aspects of our conservatory is its size. We’re able to do things here that Juilliard and Indiana cannot do, because they’re so large. Indiana cannot guarantee that every single person that comes to the institution will, for every semester or quarter, play chamber music. The next point is our tremendous scholarship program; everyone here is on scholarship. And lastly, we’ve built a world-class faculty.
How challenging is it to make it into the Lynn Conservatory?
It’s very challenging. ... If I can talk you out of being a music major, you shouldn’t be a music major. It’s a hard, bitter, difficult road, and if you don’t have the emotional, intellectual and sometimes physical shock absorbers to go down that road, you shouldn’t be doing it.
We have reached the point where the level of people who come to audition is getting higher and higher, because they realize that we exist. But you are auditioning with available slots in mind. Next year, there will be one slot open in flute.
What is your ultimate goal with the conservatory?
My biggest goal right now is for the conservatory to be endowed. There’s got to be somebody in Palm Beach County that would like their name to be in the same verbiage as Eastman and Curtis and Juilliard. [Otherwise], my goal is to maintain excellence. And maintenance is a beast. Getting to the top is one thing. Staying at the top is even harder.
You’re also a motivational speaker. What do you drive home the most in your speeches?
One of the things I speak a great deal about is discipline. I define discipline as the ability to do a great job at something you don’t like. That’s one of the major ingredients in vision—the discipline to be disciplined. That’s what divides the dreamers from the visionaries.