Who can say that they know a finalist from one of the highest-rated reality television shows of the past decade and a cast member of a critically acclaimed production being seen by thousands of people around the country?
A proud number of students and faculty on both Rider campuses, that’s who.
Anwar Robinson, a 2001 graduate of Westminster Choir College (WCC), was a finalist on season four of American Idol and now portrays Tom Collins in a multi-city tour of the Broadway musical RENT.
“All musicians have to be reminded that if you know what you want, you have to keep looking up to achieve that goal and Anwar is a perfect example of that,” said senior Edward Whittle, SGA vice president on the Princeton campus.
Whittle and many of his friends were ecstatic when Robinson first appeared on American Idol and they continued to show their support for Robinson by attending a recent performance of RENT at the State Theater in New Brunswick on Jan. 16.
“When he was a finalist on American Idol, we would all gather in Seabrook Lounge and order pizza, and when the show was over we would call in to vote for him until our fingers got tired,” Whittle said. “We would even call the Westminster Symphonic Choir to tell them what number to vote for so they could vote after their performance in New York.”
Also present for the RENT performance at the State Theater was Evelyn Thomas, WCC’s director of Academic Support and coordinator of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), to which Robinson belonged during his years at WCC.
Thomas remembers Robinson as a student who possessed “a lot of wisdom and insight that other students don’t gain until later in life.”
As if the outpouring of votes while he was on American Idol was not enough, Thomas even flew to California to watch Robinson during a taping of the show.
“I felt honored to be able to go and support him during that time so [that] he had some familiar faces in the audience,” she said.
According to Thomas, there is a brotherhood shared between Anwar and the Princeton campus. He has visited the University several times since he graduated, including an appearance during the 2005 commencement ceremony where he sang for those in attendance.
While enrolled at WCC, Robinson earned recognition across the campus as a resident advisor and a peer counselor for EOP. He was also actively involved in various choirs and was a founding member of the Jubilee Choir.
The director of the Jubilee Choir, J. Donald Dumpson, said Robinson is like a son to him and that he still collaborates with the singer in his professional life today.
“I am very proud of him, not only as a performer, but as a very compassionate human being,” Dumpson said.
Dumpson also referred to Robinson as an extraordinary talent who was exceptional when he attended WCC and who continues to be exceptional today.
“His continued growth toward excellence is something that makes all of us at Westminster very proud,” Dumpson said.
Anne Sears, director of External Affairs at WCC, agrees.
“I am not surprised he has gone so far,” she said. “Besides talent he has great charisma.”
In an exit interview with American Idol, Robinson admitted his own shock at how far he had gone as a contestant on the show and said his advice to others was “to believe that you can get this far instead of just taking a chance.”