Scholar/pianist/media author Robert Winter began his life as a would-be athlete and science student at Coral Gables High School (Florida) and a physics major at Brown University. Following an epiphany at the end of his sophomore year, he earned his B.A. in Music, then an M.F.A. in Piano from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Ph. D. in the History & Theory of Music from the University of Chicago. Before joining the UCLA music faculty he spent three years in Europe on Fulbright-Hayes and Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation fellowships performing and researching his doctoral work on the sketches for Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131.
In the ﬁrst ﬁfteen years of his scholarly career, Winter authored, co-authored, or edited four major books on Beethoven and published a substantial number of inﬂuential articles on compositional process, performance practice, and Franz Schubert (he contributed the Schubert article to the 2000 edition of theGrove Dictionary of Music and Musicians).The Beethoven Sketchbooks (with Douglas Johnson and Alan Tyson, published by the University of California Press) received the Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society for the best scholarly music book of 1985. Winter’s other awards and honors in that same period included a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983 and, in 1990, the Frances Densmore Prize (for the best article on musical instruments between 1986-89) from the American Musical Instrument Association. He also served a term as an elected member of the American Musicological Society’s Board of Directors.
From 1979 on, Winter became widely known to the general musical public for his nationally broadcast 10-week live-music series (host and frequent performer) on Mozart and Beethoven (with the Sequoia Quartet) for American Public Radio, as well as programs in the seriesPaciﬁc Coast Highway. His audiences for countless live performances and lectures covering a vast range of musical and cultural topics have included the Los Angeles Philharmonic (where he pioneered the pre-concert format over a 15-year period), Los Angeles Opera, the national meetings of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Avery Fisher Hall (New York Philharmonic), the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, national meetings of Chamber Music America (New York), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 92nd Street Y Schubertiads, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. (PBS Special on Moods and Music), the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, the Opera League of Los Angeles, numerous summer music festivals (including 20 years on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival, Music@Menlo, and nine seasons directing a sold-out summer concert series at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California, and a host of colleges, universities, and schools of music.
Winter has also presented his work to international audiences in Japan (on a multimedia tour sponsored by Pioneer); three Intermedia conferences in Mexico City; early Mozart in Calgary, Canada; France (Milia Festival, Cannes); Austria (international Beethoven symposium); Germany (Beethoven sketches in Berlin and Bonn); Prague, Czech Republic (New World interactive DVD), and, since 2010, at numerous music conservatories and universities across Asia. He has served as ofﬁcial and unofﬁcial coach of numerous string quartets, chamber ensembles, and opera productions. Writing for the Wall Street Journal in 1993, Mark Swed described Winter as “probably the best public explicator of music since Leonard Bernstein.”
In 1989 Winter’s career took a dramatic turn when he was invited by the Voyager Company to produce its ﬁrst original interactive software title—today widely regarded as the ﬁrst commercial interactive publication. As an instinctively multimedia performer and author, Winter’s programs on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Igor Stravinsky’sThe Rite of Spring (called “masterly” by the New York Times); Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet, and Dvorak’sNew World Symphony have been hailed in theNew York Times, theWall Street Journal,Newsweek (where he was proﬁled as one of “50 to Watch” in cyberspace), U.S. News and World Report,Wired Magazine,People Magazine,and elsewhere as milestones in multimedia publishing.
A regular contributor to publications such as The New York Review of Books, Winter is also an articulate international spokesperson for the role of content and the arts in a digital world. He worked closely with both Apple and Microsoft in developing their early multimedia platforms and strategies. He has been a featured or keynote speaker/performer at many professional conferences, including the Microsoft CD-ROM Conference, Digital World, Stuart Alsop’s Agenda ’90, the UCLA Multimedia Roundtable, the Japanese National Audio-Visual Conference in Tokyo, MacWorld Expos in the United States and Mexico, Milia (Cannes, France), Intermedia (San Francisco), the Governor’s Conference on the Arts & Technology (Santa Clara), the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, B.C., the Ziff Institute, and keynote addresses for the National Association of Schools of Music.
Winter also recorded a live video music series for RCA Victor that was launched with three titles in February 1995. From 1996-2002 he led for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (the major American presenter organization, based in Washington, D.C.) an annual five-day seminar for arts presenters in Aspen, La Jolla, and New York entitled “Classical Connections” that explored broad issues of understanding and programming classical music with a focus on audience development and community education.
Winter served as Chair of the UCLA Music Department in 1992-94 (overseeing the statewide approval of the uniquely structured M.M./D.M.A. program, whose development he spearheaded) and Associate Dean for Technology and Curricular Innovation in the School of the Arts & Architecture from 1995-2000. In 1996 Winter was named to the Presidential Chair in Music and Interactive Arts—the first such chair to be awarded in the arts at UCLA. From 1996-2000 he was the Founder/Director of UCLA’s Center for the Digital Arts. Winter is that rare recipient of both of UCLA’s two highest honors—the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006 and the Faculty Research Lectureship in the spring of 2010.
As President of Calliope, a multimedia publishing company devoted to originally authored programs in the arts, humanities, and entertainment, Mr. Winter authored or produced numerous titles—from “Robert Winter’s “Crazy for Ragtime” (released in May 1996; “Robert Winter has done it again.” Newsweek) to “Interactive Perlman” (a program exploring Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman) that received wide critical acclaim. In 2003 he was recruited by Carnegie Hall to spearhead their new digital outreach programs. The first project joined forces with the world renowned Emerson String Quartet in an interactive Performer’s Guide to the Bartók Quartets, which Carnegie Hall made available online in 2006. Under the leadership of Joseph Horowitz, Winter was the recipient of an NEH grant to vastly expand his earlier program on Dvorák and the New World into an interactive DVD (the first of its kind) that appeared in March of 2008.
During the fall of 2010 Winter embarked on a four-month visit to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, giving almost fifty lectures, performances, and master classes at major conservatories and universities in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and more than a half dozen institutions in Taiwan—only the first of numerous teaching and learning trips to Asia. In March of 2013 he returned to Shanghai Conservatory and presented for the first time at both Hangzhou and Fuzhou conservatories. He spent three months back in China during the fall of 2013. Along with keynote addresses at professional conferences and tours to several major cities, he offered six lectures over a one-month period at the Shanghai Conservatory on the culture, life, and music of Franz Schubert. He has now received the honorific title of Guest Professor at both the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (the first such person in Western music to be so recognized) and Xinghai Conservatory in Guangzhou.
Winter has long been concerned with the future of classical music from especially the demand side. Without audiences and amateur musicians who grasp the relevance of music as a resource that not only enriches but helps explain their lives, classical music, Winter believes, will almost certainly continue its steady decline as a cultural force. He has always seen musical engagement as an activity that helps all who participate to acquire cognitive skills—the ability to focus, to reflect, to engage body and mind simultaneously, to learn the rewards of purposeful practice—that have both a practical and a transformational effect on lives.
A decade ago Winter and his longtime collaborator Peter Bogdanoff began work on a platform that afforded the most open-ended yet integrated access ever to the exploration of music. This has culminated in Music in the Air (quickly dubbed MITA by Winter’s students), the first completely digital, integrated account of Western (and now Chinese and other) music(s). With an approach that seamlessly conjoins music history (what MITA calls “context”), music theory (what MITA calls “the languages of music”), and performance (what brings most people to music in the first place), MITA’s unabashed goal is to kindle (and rekindle) the fires of curiosity and engagement in novices, amateurs, and professionals alike.
In early 2017 ArtsInteractive will publish Books 3-4 (of 6), with Books 1-2 and 5-6 to both follow in mid 2017 and early 2018. MITA has aroused so much interest in China that the most prestigious Chinese music publishing house has signed an historic contract with Winter for MITA CHINA (some 675,000 words) that will bring the lively sounds of music, ideas, and performance to music students across China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. Books 3-4 are scheduled for Chinese publication in March of 2017. (Winter has also proposed and will co-direct a project—using MITA’s robust platform—on Traditional Chinese music with Chinese authors and musicians.) A companion application entitled zipScore, scheduled for release in 2017, will permit users to have access to MITA’s robust tool kit to create their own programs of great flexibility and power.
Further current and future projects include two interactive programs (Bach Stories–Five Fugal Tales; and How They Played Chopin; How We Play Chopin). Winter is also involved in upgrading and preparing for release more than thirty media projects and performances—including his now iconic program on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, whose history is documented in the newest revision of Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists(published in 2014 by MIT Press)—for release on laptops, iPads, iPhones, and other digital platforms.