Gables mother and son share a grand love of music

That the love of music will be handed down in a family of musicians is a safe bet.

Just ask Robert Chumbley, successful composer-conductor-pianist, Coral Gables native and Coral Gables Music Club member who became fascinated by piano concertos at age 2.

“I would sit underneath the piano and watch my mom and dad while they practiced,” said Robert, who began playing at age 5.

“When Robert was little, we would play ballet music,” said Nan Chumbley, Robert’s mother and longtime piano teacher. “He kept wanting to hear Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Pianos.”

Mrs. Chumbley has been a member of the Coral Gables Music Club for more than five years, and Robert joined last year. Founded in 1939, the club meets once a month from October through May at the CocoPlum Women’s Club.

“The main purpose is to promote an interest in music and to raise funds for scholarships for mostly students high school age and under,” says Margaret Seroppian, president. “We raise funds for our scholarships from private contributions and an annual fundraiser in December.”

One of the club’s most anticipated events of the year, the season-finale concert, will be at 11 a.m. May 21 in the Coral Reef Yacht Club at 2484 South Bayshore Dr.

At last year’s event, Mr. Chumbley played the piano for 100 guests at the Coral Gables Museum.

“The club is a great place to meet fellow musicians and socialize with them,” he said. “It also gives great opportunities to young musicians who don’t have the funds for music lessons or their own instruments.”

Mr. Chumbley earned a master’s degree at Julliard in New York City, falling in love with composing by age 20. He went on to perform at Carnegie Hall, conduct the London Ballet orchestra, perform at President Clinton’s second inaugural in 1997, and work as music director of the Cleveland Opera and the Atlanta Ballet, to name a few.

Mr. Chumbley now teaches private lessons and spends at least four to five hours a day composing, he says, adding that many of his students have won scholarships from the Coral Gables Music Club.

His mother also knows the life of dedicated musician and teacher. She studied at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University and has taught piano since age 22.

“We didn’t play soccer or go to the movies,” she says of her youth. “It was living and breathing music.”

In her 20s, Mrs. Chumbley juggled teaching 25 students a day while caring for little Robert. In 2012, she retired from teaching at age 85, proud of her music-filled career.

“There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a musician from a young age,” she said. “That type of desire lives in your blood.”

And, of course, her son is living proof.

Anabell Bernot is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in public relations and theater at the University of Miami.

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