James Rodriguez’s (DMA Vocal Performance ’15) love of music has resonated with him since the beginning. He started singing at age five and hasn’t stopped since. Even as other career paths beckoned to him – he briefly considered pursuing engineering and, later, law school – music always called him back. Ultimately, he decided to pursue vocal performance at Southern Methodist University, paving the way for a promising future in music.
The Fort Worth native followed his musical calling to the University of Houston, where he earned a doctorate in vocal performance with a minor in pedagogy at the Moores School of Music. Rodriguez credits his mentors Melanie Sonnenberg, Joseph Evans and Cynthia Clayton with encouraging his growth not only as a performer, but as an instructor. As he developed his musical proficiency, he also gained teaching experience by leading undergraduate classes and worked with professional ENT (ears, throat and nose) specialists at the Texas Medical Center to learn about healthy singing practices.
“It was the best of both worlds,” he says. “They gave me the practical tools, the hands-on experience that made all the difference.”
Once Rodriguez earned his DMA from UH, a feat he describes as his proudest moment, he set his sights on a career in higher education. He saw it as a chance for him to give back and, hopefully, foster a love of music in future generations of musicians. “Music is such a powerful thing and it’s an amazing outlet,” he explains. “I want to show young people – especially young people of color – the opportunities that are available, that you can achieve great things through music, education and hard work.”
Rodriguez’s own hard work is now coming to fruition. After a year as an interim instructor at Texas Christian University, he is stepping into the role of director of the vocal pedagogy program. “It’s my dream job,” he says, without hesitation, and his excitement is palpable. He continues on about his goals for the program, many of which are inspired by his UH experience, including developing local partnerships with the medical community and increasing hands-on learning opportunities. “I feel like I’ve come full circle. I’m back home in Fort Worth and I’m ready to make a difference.”