Lessons With a Legend

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Carol Robbins has earned her place in the harp world as a pioneering jazz player in the tradition of Dorothy Ashby. She has recorded and performed with an eclectic variety of artists including Rihanna, Lauren Hill, Manhattan Transfer, Brian Wilson, Bjork, Dianne Reeves, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin. She has been an integral member of the Grammy nominated Billy Childs’ Jazz Chamber Ensemble since 1999, and was featured on the March-April 2002 cover of Harp Column.

How jazz great Dorothy Ashby changed my life

—by Carol Robbins

The signed photo Dorothy Ashby gave to Carol Robbins. (Scroll down for more about Dorothy Ashby.)

I was a teenager when I met Dorothy. I had been playing piano since I was a toddler in Chicago and, after moving to Los Angeles, I had started classical harp lessons at age 9. I was playing and singing rock and jazz on both piano and harp. I heard that the great Dorothy Ashby had moved to Los Angeles. How incredibly exciting. If only she would be willing to take me on as a student! I obtained her phone number. She was staying with her husband, John, at Hotel Drake in Santa Monica. I gathered the courage to call her. I told her who I was and related my extreme admiration of her. I timidly asked whether there was any chance she would be willing to teach me.

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