Robin Bowman, born in London in 1948, studied as a musicologist at King’s College London under Thurston Dart between 1966 and 1971, whilst also pursing performance studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. From 1973 until 1985 he was a music lecturer at the University of Southampton, where one of his main tasks was the establishment of weekly performance seminars as part of the core undergraduate programme.
He also trained as a Lied-accompanist under Walther Gruner and worked as assistant to Pierre Bernac, the singer for whom Poulenc wrote more than half of his songs, between 1970 and Bernac’s death ten years later. This explains his appointment as principal French vocal repertoire teacher at the Guildhall School from 1973 and French consultant for the National Opera Studio from its establishment in 1978, both posts held until 2008.
In 1985 he became Head of Academic Studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a post he held until transferring to that of Head of Vocal Studies at the same institution from 1997 until 2008. During these years, especially latterly, when he had the probably unique distinction of being or having been head of both an academic and a performing department in a major British music college, he was much in demand as an overall external examiner at other British music colleges. These appointments, mainly for three years at a time, spanned Trinity College of Music, London, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Birmingham Conservatoire, the Royal Northern College of Music, culminating in the Royal College of Music from 2006 – 2009. He also undertook some intensive peer group reviewing around the turn of the century for the then Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Prior to all this, in the early 1980s he had been a member of the Council for National Academic Awards music panel, and latterly performing arts panel. The core of the work of these external examiner posts involved membership of undergraduate and postgraduate performance panels. He also has considerable experience as a member of international juries for competitions and concours in both vocal and keyboard fields, and during the 1990s was a member of an Association of European Conservatoires committee with special interest in lifelong learning. He has often adjudicated for vocal and collaborative piano competitions in British conservatoires and higher education institutions, and was a panel member for the 2013 Kathleen Ferrier Competition. During his career he calculates that he has conducted, or been a member of, upwards of 15,000 solo vocal auditions.
His international career as an accompanist and chamber-music pianist involved partnerships with Gérard Souzay, Dawn Upshaw, and Henry Herford, among others. Among his discography his two-volume CD of songs by Charles Ives with Henry Herford gained a British Music Retailers Association Award, and around ten years later a 2001 recording of songs by Percy Turnbull with Nancy Argenta and Roderick Williams gained a five-star review in the BBC Music Magazine. Partnering Henry Herford in the 1982 International American Music Competition where Henry won the first prize, opened an American dimension to Robin’s work leading to further recording, broadcasts and teaching at Tanglewood.
Robin has also had long associations with other summer schools – among which the Académie Internationale de Musique Maurice Ravel, from its inception in 1970 until 1994, “Summer Music” probably the largest British vocal summer school, from 1983 until 2007, and again, under its reincarnation as AIMS (Ardingly International Music School) in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice from 1997 to 2007, the Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers from 1997 until the present, and Oxenfoord International, initially intermittently and now annually from 1996 until the present. He has often taught the French component in short French and German repertoire courses in England and Germany alongside Rudolf Piernay. In addition to the above, Robin has also taught for the University of Auckland, taught and performed extensively in Japan, and been involved in short courses and master-classes in England, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Korea. His late summer weekend teaching French solo vocal repertoire has been a regular part of the programme of the Jackdaws Music Education Trust for the last twenty years or so. In four of the last five years Robin has given one or two masterclasses each year for the Oxford Lieder Festival in techniques for audition to music colleges at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He returns again to do this in 2018. In 1996 he wrote the ‘style and interpretation for singing teachers’ section of the ISM/Reading University Music Teaching in Private Practice initiative. From 1975 to 1989 he was a coach for Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
Robin retired from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2008 and took up a post as Coordinator of the volunteers at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. At the same time he was appointed a visiting tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, giving weekly postgraduate repertoire classes and extensive individual coaching, and occasional participating in examining and auditioning. This work has steadily developed and in March 2016, Robin retired from Woodbrooke and now has a much increased commitment at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Robin has an as yet unfulfilled invitation to teach at the Conservatory of the National University of Singapore, and for the past three years has been specialist external assessor for the vocal studies department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.