As a Roebuck Springs resident with years of investment in Birmingham and the Woodlawn community, Paige Robinson’s music lessons at the Mason Music Foundation have benefited her life and career while providing a hands-on outlet to grow in her lifelong musical interest.
Paige’s lifelong love for live music stems from her father, a former touring percussionist. However, she opted for other pursuits, playing tennis growing up and eventually studying art history at the University of Georgia. After earning her degree, Paige spent the subsequent 11 years building a franchising career in Birmingham, working for local multi-unit franchises such as Newk’s, before her current American Family Care position. As Director of Franchise Development and Health System Affiliations, Paige works with and recruits investors west of the Mississippi River.
“It’s been incredible over the last year, as people have decided to diversify into healthcare and look for sustainable things that allow them to help their communities, and that’s where I come in,” said Paige. “In non-COVID times, I’m usually on an airplane, traveling back and forth to meet my clients, develop them, and see if they’re a good fit for the American Family Care brand.”
Despite this detour through her formative and professional years, Paige’s love for music never subsided. She has remained an avid concert attendee to the present day, and according to her, live music has played a pivotal role in her life.
“I’ve always spent my disposable income (or the little bit that I’ve had) traveling to see bands,” said Paige. “I love it. As a matter of fact, that’s how I met my husband-to-be.”
As Paige’s local roots grew, she became involved with civic organizations throughout the Birmingham metro, discovering Mason Music through prior work with the Mountain Brook Chamber. As a result of these experiences, Paige can attest to Mason Music’s positive reputation.
“Mason Music is a well-respected foundation in the community,” said Paige. “I had the privilege of serving on many Chamber boards in the community, and Mason Music has always had a stellar reputation in Birmingham.”
Spurred partly by COVID travel restrictions, Paige began taking weekly lessons at the Woodlawn studio to reconnect with her musical roots, attracted to the Foundation’s mission and structure.
“I like the mission, that there are scholarships available, and that it’s kind of a sliding scale,” said Paige. “With Woodlawn and its renaissance, I knew that its campus might be a good fit for me.“
Indeed, Paige’s discovery of the Foundation’s Woodlawn studio coincides with the spark of community revitalization efforts. Despite initial prosperity from Birmingham’s industrial prominence, Woodlawn fell victim to urban neglect in the 1960s and 1970s as steel production faded, the middle class moved away, and the I-20/59 junction finished construction.
However, Woodlawn community members and invested local nonprofits have enjoyed recent success in their revitalization efforts. In the past decade, the arrivals and renovations of facilities such as the James Rushton Early Learning Center, i3 Academy, Cornerstone Schools, and the Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO) have provided Woodlawn students with educational options and creative opportunities. Further nonprofit partnerships with the YWCA, Church of the Highlands, and the Christ Health Center have also allowed physical and mental health treatment from renovated buildings downtown. Such local nonprofits and community associations continue to launch education, housing, and community development initiatives as Woodlawn United.
Since the Foundation’s 2015 Cornerstone Schools pilot program, its community presence has grown, reaching new students and securing lesson facilities with other local partners like the Woodlawn Foundation, i3 Academy, and Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO). The Foundation currently serves roughly 30 students from DISCO’s multipurpose First Avenue North space. As COVID precautions allow, it will contribute to downtown developments by continuing renovations to its future live venue/studio space in the historic Woodlawn Theatre spot.
“It’s a cool transitional area that I wanted to be a part of, and when I saw that Mason Music had a Woodlawn campus, I thought, ‘Well, this is perfect!’” said Paige. “Not only is it close, but I love supporting the Woodlawn community because it’s just adjacent to mine.”
Since October 2020, Paige has been taking masked, socially distant percussion lessons with instructor Joe DeVita, who alleviated Paige’s feelings of self-consciousness as a new student.
“I had no experience, I’m in my mid-30s, and in my brain, most of the students would be young, or maybe high-school at the oldest,” said Paige. “Meeting Joe was so wonderful because he immediately put all of my fears to rest – I was immediately comfortable, and he’s so patient.”
According to Paige, the comfortable atmosphere of lessons with Joe has directly benefited her in that she feels more adventurous and less obligated to apologize.
“I have this terrible habit – I think we all do – where we say ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’- constantly apologizing for everything,” said Paige. “[Joe’s] almost got me out of that tic, which is a feat in itself because I finally feel comfortable messing up and trying again! That’s what it’s all about, right?”
Together, the two have been working on the Ramones’ “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement.” According to Paige, this practice has allowed her to try internalizing tempo while practicing simple, energetic beats.
“I think having the opportunity to learn more about timing has just been fun and challenging,” said Paige. “I want to play everything real fast because I feel like, ‘okay, I got it, boom,’ and Joe has to say, ‘okay, just chill.’”
As a student, Paige found a grind in lessons and musical practice similar to her formative years’ grueling tennis court practices. The experience has taught her a healthy respect for this process and developed her skills as an active listener.
“I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the perseverance and dedication it takes to be so good at one’s craft,” said Paige. “Music is the universal language that just brings people together. I feel like I’m even more in the club now because I’m learning this skill, and it teaches me to listen and appreciate more thoughtfully.”
As a result, Paige has also been able to connect with her clients through mutual experiences.
“I’ve got clients that are musicians or passionate about music, so when I have the opportunity to tell them I’m taking drum lessons now, it helps create a meaningful rapport,” said Paige. “I think it helps you build a relationship any time you have a shared skill or a conversation piece of similar interest to someone.”
Paige’s musical tastes include various genres, from rock to jazz, blues, and punk. Her most recent musical interests include the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Deer Tick, and the Georgia indie rock sextet Futurebirds.
“My personal favorites have to be my homies from UGA, Futurebirds,” said Paige. “We went to school together, and their latest album just blew me away, so I’ve been following the Futurebirds closely for the last couple of years.”