Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Rob. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I grew up in Northbrook, Illinois, and for a while I planned to become a doctor. Partway through high school, I started getting more invested in music, and I opted instead to pursue my bachelor’s degree at Juilliard and a master’s degree from Northwestern University, both in trombone performance. I graduated from Northwestern in 2019 and have been performing as a freelancer ever since. However, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a career pivot. My wife, a music teacher, suggested online tutoring, and it proved to be a perfect fit! Now I perform, tutor, substitute teach, and more, and I am passionate about making connections and helping people achieve their goals!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
That depends on which part of my career you are asking about… Growing up, my musical inspirations were mostly the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and my friends, especially those a year or two older than me. As an educator, especially at the beginning, my wife was my biggest inspiration. The connections she forms with her students, and the way that she puts her love for them into action, are truly inspiring! Now I have my own students, and their successes, hard work, and joy inspire me as well!
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
One of my proudest achievements is the way my career has changed since I graduated with my master’s degree in 2019. Both of my degrees are in music, specifically trombone performance. My natural impulse is to focus deeply on one thing at a time, and my coursework reflected that. Less than a year after I graduated, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live music for months at a time. At first, this was terrifying, as I felt that my life experience had only qualified me to do one thing. Eventually, I took a step back to look at other parts of my identity. I love learning, and I take pride in being able to talk about a variety of subjects. I’m also a meticulous and systematic thinker, and I can usually explain why I think something pretty clearly. Maybe, I thought, that could make me a good teacher. So I started out teaching online classes, then added one-on-one tutoring, substitute teaching, and more. Education is a big part of my life now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of people throughout my life who have supported and believed in me. My parents are at the top of that list. It’s hard to pick just one story of a time when they helped me, but one thing that stands out is that they supported me in going to music school. It was certainly a risky career move, but when I told them it was what I loved, and that I really thought that I could make it work, they believed me. Even though my career has gone in surprising directions, I don’t regret my choice, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without my parents.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring?
I find it incredibly rewarding to know I am helping someone accomplish their own goals. When I can help something click for a student when it didn’t before, I feel like there’s nothing better. I also love building connections with my students and helping them connect with what we’re working on. I believe that learning comes naturally when students are interested in a subject. Helping students connect with their work and internalize their motivation on subjects they previously had no interest in is an amazing thing to see!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Outside the many parts of my career, I really enjoy cooking! I love exploring different flavor profiles from around the world and coming up with creative dishes to cook for my wife, who is a vegetarian. Some favorite dishes include sesame tofu and all different types of pasta! When the weather is nice, I also love taking care of our garden. This year we planted lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, sunflowers, and more!
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
I have been privileged to travel to many amazing places, but one trip that stands out is my honeymoon! We went to Hawaii around New Year’s 2022, and spent 5 days each in Honolulu and Maui. One highlight for me was a tour of Oahu where we learned about Hawaii’s culture and history while visiting some incredible sites–shoutout to our guide Kimo for making the tour so special! Another was snorkeling and whale watching on Maui. Tropical fish are beautiful, but being near the whales was especially amazing. As an extra treat, when we got home, we realized our GoPro had recorded whales singing when we put it in the water!
If you were granted three wishes, what would they be and why?
First, I would wish that people could exchange memories, with their emotional associations and perspectives attached. Maybe I’m too optimistic about human nature, but I truly believe that most of us want to make the world better for everyone, and I think that if people, especially those in positions of power, could widen their perspectives, it could lead to amazing changes. Then I would wish for unlimited food, water, medicine, and housing for every person. Last, I would wish for a way to travel backward in time without creating paradoxes. Maybe I would visit some interesting moments in human history, but mostly I would use it to see dinosaurs. I love them and paleontology in general, and I needed to put that into this spotlight somewhere!
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
The advice I would give myself as a kid, and that I give some of my students, is that none of this matters as much as you think it does. This isn’t the right advice for every situation, and I don’t want it to come off as dismissive. Serious things definitely happen to young people. But I do think that younger people generally have a more limited perspective, which can lead them to see obstacles, mistakes, and failures as bigger deals than they actually are. In my case, I would sometimes agonize and exhaust myself over things that made no difference in my life. I try to help my students prioritize and schedule their lives in ways that center their well-being and goals, in that order.
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” – Pirkei Avot (2:21)
I am passionate about making the world a better place, where everyone can live a safe and fulfilling life. I try to dedicate as much of my time, energy, and resources to this as I can, but sometimes I feel like the world’s problems are too vast, or like I am not doing enough. For me, this quote is both a commitment to Tikkun Olam – a Hebrew phrase that means “healing the world” – and an acknowledgment that it is okay for it to feel overwhelming, as long as we are moving in the right direction.