An internationally acclaimed musician whose songs are the products of global influences, Eleanor Dubinsky’s passion for music was first nurtured as a 3-year-old learning classical cello in her childhood home in University City. After traveling the world and mastering several instruments and languages, Dubinsky has released three albums and cultivated her musical career in New York City, where she now calls home. It’s here that she also teaches songwriting and performs for children receiving cancer treatment at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
You gravitated to music early on. What is your earliest memory of musical expression?
Taking a music class in University City with my mom. She tells me the teacher recognized talent in me and told her she should put me in music, so she signed me up for cello lessons at the age of 3. I would sit and practice and make stuff up. I didn’t know it was called composition or improvisation at the time, but it seems I’ve always been inclined in that direction.
You’ve now released three albums. How does each differ and exist in its own right?
“Touch the Sky” was the first full-length album I released. It’s more acoustic sounding, with some songs that have electronic elements produced by songwriter/producer Don Dilego. With “Listen to the Music,” I wanted to record the live sound I was playing with my band at the time. It has four songs with a jazzier, world vibe to them. “Soft Spot of My Heart” feels like another planet from my previous releases. It came out this year after five years of travel, research and soul searching. I would say it’s the most sophisticated and collaborative album I’ve made thus far.
Your music incorporates a number of cultures. How have you immersed yourself in different countries and languages?
I studied cello with a Japanese teacher from a very young age. In high school, my musical ear training dovetailed with learning French, and I discovered I was able to learn it quickly. I went to France for an exchange and adapted easily. I learned Spanish in my 20s when I studied percussion and dance in Cuba. I have a love for the Czech language and the Czech Republic because I studied in Prague in college. I was able to return to the country recently to teach a workshop, and I hope to do the same next year. Speaking Portuguese began about five years ago when I fell in love with the music of Sara Tavares and Dino D’Santiago. Their music is a bridge that led to my new album.
You were recently in St. Louis for a fundraiser supporting University City Children’s Center. Why was it important for you to return home for it?
I had a very privileged and somewhat sheltered childhood in St. Louis. I have a strong awareness of how lucky I was to have great educational opportunities while I was there. Since I left home, I’ve been able to travel the world and discover how much I value equal opportunity for all children to realize their potential. I’ve wanted to reconnect with St. Louis and its diverse communities, and to understand better the complexity of the economic and racial diversity that is so omnipresent. UCCC embodies the values I believe in, and this collaboration gave me the chance to support and get involved in what they are doing.
Tell me about your St. Louis background.
I grew up in University City and graduated from Community School and John Burroughs School. Both of my parents graduated from Washington University, so it has been a big presence in my life as well. My father and his siblings and parents also grew up in St. Louis.
What are you working on now?
I’m booking a European tour for summer 2019. I have a few new songs in the works that I’m excited about, one with an artist from Senegal and others I’m writing with my band.