Brian “B-Rob” Robinson is not your ordinary song-and-dance man.
At 39, the Charlotte, N.C., native and NC State communication alumnus has built a successful career in Southern California producing reality TV shows — specializing in amateur singing and dancing competitions.
His credits include FOX-TVs So You Think You Can Dance and 12 years with American Idol, the show that launched fellow Wolfpacker Scotty McCreery’s country music career. In August, Robinson started a new gig as a producer for The Voice, NBC-TV’s vocal competition.
Robinson graduated from NC State in 1998 with a degree in communication, focused on mass communications and media studies. Communication Professor Jim Alchediak remembers him well from several classes. “Brian was a wonderful presence — and actor! — in my television production class,” Alchediak says. “He was the quintessential team player. I’m so glad to see him get the attention he so richly deserves.”
When he graduated, Robinson figured he was destined to make documentaries. “I knew I was really interested in capturing footage and putting that footage together to tell true stories, and I didn’t know what capacity,” he says. “But reality TV was really taking off at that time, and I just fell into it.”
Robinson was working with Beyond the Glory, a FOX-TV series that profiled legendary and controversial athletes, when, as he recalls it, “I met someone who said there was a show that was kind of new, called American Idol.
He knew little more about Idol than the fact that its season 2 runner-up was a fellow North Carolinian, Clay Aiken. Even so, he landed a producing job with the show’s 2003 summer replacement, American Juniors, a song-and-dance competition for 6- to 13-year-olds. When it ended after a single season, Robinson moved on to Idol.
As a producer, Robinson has many roles, from calming jittery amateurs (aka “the artists”) to prepping celebrity hosts (aka “the talent”) for on-air interviews and writing copy for voice-overs. His more than 200 Idol episodes include a “B-Rob”-produced live, remote broadcast from Raleigh’s PNC Arena as locals cheered on McCreery, the 2011 winner from nearby Garner, N.C.
At The Voice, Robinson coaches contestants so they will feel at ease speaking about themselves on camera. He susses out the quirks that make each one tick, probing for details about their upbringing and their music that will connect them to viewers.
In other words, Robinson has become the storyteller he dreamed of being as a student at NC State.
A freelancer who founded his own company, Strandview Productions, last year, he finds the song-and-dance competitions to his liking.
“I love these jobs because they’re giving an opportunity to people with a dream and a desire to really break into the business,” he says. “It’s really an exciting thing, and that has kept me in it. Every show, it’s a new crop of hopefuls and you get to watch that happen for them. It’s really cool to see the cream rise to the top.”
–By Carole Tanzer Miller
An earlier version of this article first appeared in NC State’s alumni association blog, Red and White for Life.