Robert Milne


Musical Performance

Robert Milne never took piano lessons. He has a music degree in French horn performance and played with two major east coast symphonies. Piano? He's selftaught and he plays everything by ear.

Named a musical ambassador by the U.S. State Department, he traveled overseas for many years. He was interviewed and filmed by the Library of Congress in 2004 and was declared a “national treasure.” The films are in the Library today as part of the national record.

Robert is the subject of an ongoing neurology brain study, now in its 9th year, by the Penn State University Neurology Department of what they describe as “unusual musical abilities.” It was discovered that he routinely listens to up to four different symphonic pieces in his head at the same time (even his wife didn’t know he did this). These tests were featured on the NPR RadioLab program “Four-Track Mind,” which is still running on podcast.

He performs about 250 concerts a year across the nation and world. While driving through Montana in 2009, he composed a complete grand opera in his head — the music, lyrics and orchestration — based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A production is slated to begin November 2018.

Student Testimonials

  • "He is absolutely fantastic."
  • "He has an engaging rapport with the audience."
  • "He is the best."

The Great American Tear-Jerker

"Priscilla at the Piano"

“Priscilla at the Piano” is an old phrase among saloon piano players referring to those who would sit at their upright pianos at home in the 1890s and sing the old “tear-jerker” songs. Warbling such phrases as “Mother’s in the Baggage Coach Ahead” (mother is dead, of course), they would literally launch into weeping and crying over the maudlin topics which were the rage of the day (today’s version of this is the soap opera). Another classic, “Break the News to Mother” (her dying son is giving instructions from the battlefield), was one of many such songs being cranked out en masse by Tin Pan Alley composers in New York. Even Scott Joplin, before becoming famous as a ragtime composer, wrote two now arcane tear-jerkers.

Learn about other characters who wrote these songs: Harry Von Tilzer, Charles Harris and other “alleymen” of the day. Bring your Kleenex. You’re going to need it.
Register Early! There is a $5 charge for registering on the day of a one-time lecture or event.

Course # WPS1 — One Time Event
Place:Auditorium, Lifelong Learning Complex, Jupiter Campus
Dates:Saturday, January 12 2019
Time:1 - 2:30 PM
Fee:$25 / member; $35 / non-member

Register Now

Ragtime in the Red-Light Districts

Let's Go Downtown...

The development of ragtime in the red-light houses is usually confined to backroom whisperings and “teehee” giggles, yet it became possibly the most influential form of music ever to come out of America.

Did you know that the “red-light” connotation came from trainmen who left their lanterns on the porches of “shady lady” emporiums? Yes, the old “Red Onion” hung in the window and became a “beacon in the night” for weary travelers of all sorts. The redlight house piano player was the one who created the mood for incoming customers. No fast-paced, raucous boogie-woogie type stuff would be heard in these upscale palaces, but rather soothing, slow songs with, shall we say, sometimes “bodacious” connotations. (You won’t hear the lyrics here.) However, there were howling joints such as “The Castle” in St. Louis, which featured a saloon, dancing girls, “Big Mama Lou” belting out non-stop “bizarre” songs to a honky-tonk piano player, and the infamous “Madame Babe Connors” (a black woman with flaming red hair) keeping score of “events” taking place within her establishment.

Learn about the role these wrong-side-of-the-tracks joints played in the development of ragtime and how the music itself helped to draw in the crowds.
Register Early! There is a $5 charge for registering on the day of a one-time lecture or event.

Course # W1S3 — One Time Event
Place:Auditorium, Lifelong Learning Complex, Jupiter Campus
Dates:Saturday, February 2 2019
Time:1 - 2:30 PM
Fee:$25 / member; $35 / non-member

Register Now
 Last Modified 2/12/15