In Disaster, He Found His Voice
Singing NYC policeman rekindles patriotism
Rhapsody In Blue
Faith helps New York's 'singing cop' persevere
Tenor Wants to Be More Than the Singing Cop
New York City's Singing Cop Becomes 'America's Tenor'
In Disaster He Found His Voice
Published in the LA Times Jan 2002
(original article) Dec. 28, 2001 Jeff Rivers | Hartford Courant
You might not remember his name, but last year Daniel Rodriguez put his arms around America and dried its tears with his voice. He is the "singing cop," the New York City police officer who sang at the funerals of those claimed by the attacks on the World Trade Center. He sang at the World Series. He sang at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He sang at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. He sang, and sang again, "God Bless America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." Old Glory fluttered in the breeze whenever and wherever he sang.
Although his press biography says he is on leave from the New York Police Department, Rodriguez says, "I'm not going back." Things have taken off for him. He's done more than 45 concerts this year and is booked for twice as many next year. He played the White House last March. Earlier this year, "Daniel Rodriguez, the Spirit of America," his debut CD, came out. The album includes "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful" and "We Will Go On," the single he released a year ago this month.
He's being mentored by Placido Domingo and his associates at the Washington Opera Company. They are teaching him how to produce, enhance and protect his voice. Domingo and Rodriguez sang at a memorial service at Yankee Stadium 12 days after the World Trade Center towers were attacked.
Domingo, Rodriguez says, thinks he has the talent to be "another him." Rodriguez laughs at the thought.
Rodriguez, 38, punctuates his sentences with laughter. If he weren't a singer, he says, he'd be a comedian. "I am exactly where I always wanted to be," Rodriguez says. As the gospel song says, he's come this far by faith. "In my life, it's been my faith that has gotten me through tough times," he says.
Two years ago, he failed miserably at an audition at the Metropolitan Opera that former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a friend, had helped arrange. A man Rodriguez would not name stopped him just as he began to sing "La Donna E Mobile" from "Rigoletto." Rodriguez remembers the man saying that a cop who sang was incongruous to him. "So what makes you think a New York City police officer can sing opera?" the man asked.
The man didn't understand, Rodriguez says: "I wasn't a cop who sang, I was a singer who became a policeman." Rodriguez had been singing all his life. As a teenager, he worked with Elliot Dorfman, a Juilliard-trained teacher. At 17, he performed as a baritone at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. But the tenor always needed a way to support himself. He worked just to put money in his pocket and food on the table, including a stint at the post office.
He joined the Police Department looking for a steady paycheck but found a career. He sang at his graduation from the police academy in 1996 and quickly became one of the department's official singers. There are so many blessings, Rodriguez says. Nevertheless, Rodriguez says he knows that some view him as a novelty act whose fame exceeds his talent.
While he is eager to see how far his talent takes him, Rodriguez says he doesn't want to "be a rock star or a millionaire." He believes his real success is finding something he loves and doing it.
Singing NYC policeman rekindles patriotism
By Ron Greeson, Aug 2002 - Brown News Service Connersville, Ind.
A light breeze blew across the warm August night in this small, midwestern city. But this was a special night during a special event. It highlighted one special man, a man who has become known to people across the nation and around the world.
At the center of the baseball diamond stood Daniel Rodriguez, a native New Yorker and New York City police officer, doing what he does best - singing patriotic songs. The event was the 2002 15-and-under Babe Ruth Baseball World Series and this weeknight of play was the final night of round robin play. It was not an especially big night in the eight days of youth baseball in the tournament.
But the youth league park was jammed with over 8,000 fans, thousands of whom came to see, and hear, the man who has become the face, and voice, literally, of the public safety officers in these United States. It wasn't that way one year ago. He was just another NYPD officer, a man who represented the department and sang at some functions, on his own, and on the behalf of the department. But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and like those of millions of Americans, the life of Daniel Rodriguez changed forever.
Hundreds of fans moved forward to meet, greet, hug and talk to Rodriguez, who autographed shirts, hats, CDs, programs, and even arms. He did it all with a friendliness and grace you don't always see when a celebrity does a public autograph session, especially from some of the baseball luminaries who had appeared at this youth baseball event. The event organizers noted the difference. "Daniel has been a joy, even from the time I picked him up at the airport," said Butch Bunzendahl, a crewcut-headed man in charge of taking care of the invited daily celebrity guests at the Series.
"This might be our biggest attendance night of the Series," he continued. "People have really come out tonight, and it is a wonderful thing. The ceremony was something I'll never forget, and I don't think the people who were here will ever forget, either. Rodriguez belted out God Bless America, and then in front of all the youth league teams, assorted luminaries on the field, a lineup of public safety officers, a rising water fountain beyond the centerfield fence, and the misty-eyed fans, he sang the National Anthem.
Rodriguez finished amid booming fireworks, to the roar of Americans for whom the Hispanic policeman has become a symbol of all that is good and noble about America. He is now seeking to fulfill a lifetime dream, an aspiration that now seems possible because of the unspeakable tragedy of that unforgettable day. "He was already singing, as an official National Anthem singer for the city of New York.
Rodriguez is still on leave from the NYPD and hopes to become a professional singer, although that is still uncertain. On this night, he spoke to the young, the old, men and women, many of whom seemed awestruck and emotional, not able to speak to a man who struck such an emotional chord with a nation reeling from a national catastrophe, even in a city so far away and different from here as New York City.
Many misted up, and couldn't speak, as if in hugging this man, the symbol of many who died, they were hugging the victims themselves. to have items autographed and pay their respects... even one local police dog stood at attention as if saluting Rodriguez.
When he finished with the people, the man from New York went to the air-conditioned media area to eat and meet some selected sponsors and local dignitaries who had come to the park to meet 'The Singing Cop.' He spoke briefly before settling in to watch a little bit of the baseball, and talk about his life after 9/11.
"It's wonderful to travel around the country. People have such positive comments for me," the singer related.
"I am a man of faith, and faith has brought me this far and it will take me the rest of the way, wherever that is." He was in the middle of the action on the fateful day of September 11. " I was in City Hall when the first plane hit the building, and I headed down to Ground Zero," he explained. "I was heading down there when the first tower collapsed, trying to help people, people who were running to get out of lower Manhattan. We just tried to render assistance whenever we could.
"We were covered in debris ourselves, and I spent most of the next two weeks at Ground Zero," he continued. "In the first week, I was on the morgue detail, and then the first call to sing (at funerals) came." The singing at events that were televised followed, and now Rodriguez is a national figure.
On this night, people in the far-away Midwest met a man they felt they knew, representing a love of something that is shared by Americans of all races, economic stratas, locations and backgrounds.
Daniel Rodriguez came and touched these people at this youth baseball tournament, just as he had on television many months before. And the mood of the night was perhaps best reflected by one elderly white-haired lady as she approached the autograph table on this night. "Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez, for coming to our town," the lady said softly. "It means so much to us, what you did and what you are doing. You have such a beautiful voice."
Rodriguez simply smiled and answered, "thank you for the compliment and for coming out to see me, and may God bless you," he said quietly as the lady clutched his arm, then leaning on a walking cane, moved out of the tent.
Rhapsody In Blue
By Paul J. Pelkonen, Mediabistro.com
Darkness fell on America on September 11. Yet out of that darkness rose a voice which has brought light and hope to millions--the round, mellifluous tenor of New York's own "singing cop"--Daniel Rodriguez.
In the weeks that followed the destruction of the World Trade Center, baseball resumed, with the Yankees marching to the World Series.
As the country recovered itself, the 37-year old singer and seven-year veteran of the New York Police Department, became a fixture at the Stadium, where his rendition of the Irving Berlin classic "God Bless America" (a song originally made famous by another patriotic singer,Kate Smith) replaced "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the seventh inning stretch. The image of the New York cop with the natty uniform, the big tenor voice belting his heart out for his wounded country is one that stayed in the national consciousness. A record deal was assigned, a single version of "God Bless America" (and its b-side, "We Will Go On") was recorded, and a full-length album has followed.
Those cuts, with ten others grace his debut CD, "The Spirit of America, which he recorded at a breakneck speed late last year.The passion and pain of that day come through in his singing, be it the spirited "God Bless America", a stirring "Into the Fire" (from"The Scarlet Pimpernel") which brings out a pleasing baritonal color in the voice, to the passionate reading of "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables"--complete with a convincing falsetto high note at the end. This is a voice that sings with soul, for the singer's soul has suffered.
Although "The Spirit of America" consists mainly of Broadway favorites and patriotic songs, Rodriguez has begun to make the transition into singing opera.
He is studying in the Placido Domingo Young Artists Program, and preparing his first role--Rodolfo in Puccini's "La Boheme." "It's like a dream," he says of his opportunity to study with Domingo. There are great technical challenges in his path. "It's like a tap dancer being asked to do ballet," he says. "In singing Broadway songs you carry your emotions outside, on top of the song. In opera singing, the emotions are built into the words and music. It's got to be in the voice." He adds, "Technically, it's starting all over again.
"Domingo is not the only singer to influence Rodriguez' style and delivery. "I listen to everything," he enthuses. "All the operas I've gotten--and I've been watching them on DVD too." He counts Jussi Bjoerling, Mario del Monaco and Giuseppe di Stefano among "the great tones." Mario Lanza was also a huge influence. "When I saw the movie 'The Great Caruso' starring Lanza, I was immediately taken by his voice. To me, he epitomized the tenor. I wanted to be like him. I listened to the nuances of his voice, and emulated his vocal technique and eventually incorporated some of that into my own style of singing.
"Hailing from the high hills of Sunset Park, a neighborhood just off the industrial Brooklyn waterfront, Rodriguez was first discovered by Juilliard-trained voice teacher Elliot Dorfman at a young age. Like his idol, Placido Domingo, the future "singing policeman" was originally trained as baritone (an early role was Judd Fry, the bad guy in Roger's and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!") He even sang a baritone recital at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall at the age of 17.
When he turned 30, Rodriguez decided to support his family by joining the NYPD. In March, 1996, he wowed 2,000 fellow Academy graduates by singing the National Anthem at the commencement at Madison Square Garden. While he walked a beat in the 68th Precinct, Rodriguez struggled to keep his singing career alive. "It was very difficult," he relates "booking my own shows outside the NYPD schedule. I would plan concerts for Friday nights, and for the weekend, balancing my career with my other life. I'd sing show tunes and some opera, doing things from 'Boheme' and from 'Pagliacci.'"
He turns somber as he remembers the day when terrorist-piloted jetliners destroyed the World Trade Center. "It was horrible, We rushed out to the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn. We got to City Hall. There was no one there. No one. Then the buildings collapsed."
"In that darkness there was panic. People were being trampled and were covered with debris." He pauses. "You think you get over it--it's been so long almost nine months—but you never really do. I still wake up at night and think about my lost friends. I will always be proud of our heroes, and it will always be a part of me."
Faith helps New York's 'singing cop' persevere
By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON -- Until six months ago, New Yorkers knew Officer Daniel Rodriguez as the city's singing cop. But since the Sept. 11 terror attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, America and the world also have begun to know the talents of the Catholic policeman.
Rodriguez has sung "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" at baseball's World Series, the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and a host of other public events, including a prayer service at Yankee Stadium shortly after the attacks.
"Faith" is how Rodriguez says he has gotten through the past half-year knowing that his growing fame is the result of a collective national tragedy -- and thousands of individual tragedies."My singing ability is a gift. But it's more than a gift. It's a responsibility. When you are given a gift, you have to use it responsibly," said Rodriguez, who has regularly sung at the funerals of fallen officers.
Rodriguez, a lyric "spinto" -- a tenor with the range to reach lower notes -- is on leave from the NY Police Department for three months of lessons with opera star Placido Domingo, artistic director of the Washington Opera.
Rodriguez conducted an interview with Catholic News Service en route from his temporary apartment in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Va., to the Washington Opera's studio, where he was to have his first yoga lesson. "I tried to beg off." "By Rodriguez's own admission, he slid into alcohol & depression until about age 25. He then sobered up, and got a job on the police force while pursuing a new singing career.
The two weren't always compatible. "On those winter mornings when you're directing traffic, you're hacking from a cough, you wonder how much voice you're going to have left," he told CNS. "I've had pneumonia twice. "But Rodriguez recovered sufficiently from the pneumonia to sustain a closing note during a rehearsal for the Emmy Awards broadcast that impressed jazz saxophonist Tom Scott, who was conducting the orchestra for the ceremony. Scott got three record labels interested in Rodriguez, who chose EMI to release "God Bless America" as a single last December and an album, "The Spirit of America," in February.
The album was in the 150s on Billboard magazine's "Hot 200" chart of albums.It's been a stunning turnaround. Even as recently as last spring, when then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani lined up an audition for Rodriguez at the Metropolitan Opera, his auditioner dismissed him, saying, "What makes you think a cop can be an opera singer?" But Rodriguez persevered. In addition to the odd singing job, he performed cantor duties at St. Alphonsus Church in Brooklyn and St. Patrick Church in Bay Ridge, N.Y. He's since sung at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Singing snatches of opera, Broadway and Tin Pan Alley standards, and more recent pop songs to punctuate his points during the interview, Rodriguez had advice for others who sing in church. First, he recommends going to a voice teacher or vocal coach so that the singer can determine his or her true range. He also recommends plenty of rest. "If you are up early and going to bed late, or running all over the place doing things, you are going to be too exhausted to sing properly, the way you have to and the way you want to," Rodriguez said. It's a subject that's of growing importance to him.
The evening of the CNS interview, Rodriguez flew back to New York for a concert; the following week, he was to appear on "Oprah" and fly to Mexico for a concert."But the most important thing of all is that you have to enjoy what you are doing," Rodriguez said. "If you enjoy singing, it will come out in the music, and people will hear that."
Tenor Wants to Be More Than the Singing Cop
Mireya Navarro Apr 8, 2002
Singing That Goes Beyond The Voice
It isn't as if nobody knew Daniel Rodriguez before.He has appeared in front of tens of thousands of people at football and baseball games. He has opened the televised theater showcase "Broadway on Broadway" in Times Square for the last three years. Andhe has been a fixture at countless weddings, charity benefits and memorials for fallen colleagues. But it was not until the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack, when his tenor voice soothed mourners at funeral after funeral and his a cappella rendition of "God Bless America" at public events captured the dignity and patriotism of a grieving nation, that Officer Daniel Rodriguez of the New York City Police Department was catapulted into celebrity status.
Officer Rodriguez now has a manager and booking agent, a recording contract and just - released CD, scheduled performances through the year and a new challenge - to shed his 9/11 pathos."I never gave up the dream, even while being a cop," Officer Rodriguez, 37, said of his singing career. "Right now my focus is on legitimizing myself as a performer beyond `the singing police officer.' "Executives at Manhattan Records, a new division of EMI Records that signed Officer Rodriguez as its first artist last fall, say there is no question that Officer Rodriguez's popularity is tied to the emotions wrought by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Ian Ralfini, the label's vice president and co-general manager, admits that he was deeply moved watching Officer Rodriguez on television partly because he witnessed the first plane hit the towers."He was the voice people could cry to," Mr. Ralfini said.But he and many others also see in Officer Rodriguez an appealing and talented performer who can sing in operas, with symphony orchestras orin Broadway musicals, a tenor less highbrow than a Pavarotti or Domingo who can appeal to mass audiences and sell hundreds of thousands of records; in other words, America's tenor. His first CD, a collection of Broadway standards and patriotic, religious and traditional songs called "The Spirit of America," hit stores yesterday.
Next month, he is due in Washington for 13 weeks of voice and language training with the Vilar/Domingo Young Artist Program of the Washington Opera at the invitation of Placido Domingo, the company's artistic director."It's a solid voice," said Ed Purrington, artistic consultant to the young artist program. "It's beautifully and evenly produced and it has meat to it. He projects self-assurance and a love of singing and I'm sure that will translate into operatic work in which enthusiasm is an important ingredient for success. "Officer Rodriguez also has a PBS special in the works, plans for a CD and scheduled performances with symphony orchestras from Boston to Atlanta to Minneapolis. But Officer Rodriguez had fans before Sept. 11. As a child, he took voice lessons, and by 16 had his first recital at Carnegie Hall.
Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, he said both his father and paternal grandfather sang as a hobby and that he developed an early passion for singing. But Mr. Rodriguez also married early, at 19, and soon had a son and a daughter to support. He kept singing at weddings, at churches, at benefits, but family responsibilities sidetracked him into a series of jobs. He worked as a cook, truck driver, cabinetmaker, undercover security officer and postal worker. Seven years ago, after deciding he needed a steady job, Mr. Rodriguez joined the police force, first as a patrol and vice officer, then in the security detail at Police Headquarters and as a community relations officer.
But in a foreshadowing of what was to come, he was "discovered" by his superiors when he sang the national anthem at his police academy graduation and was immediately assigned to the Police Department's ceremonial unit in addition to his regular police work. That meant singing at everything from Major League games to street naming ceremonies."I became the official national anthem singer for the N.Y.P.D.," he told a crowd of well-wishers at his CD release party Monday night. At the patrol force that oversees southern Manhattan, on East 21st Street, where Officer Rodriguez last worked as a community relations officer, Chief Allan Hoehl said he had no qualms about using him as a public relations weapon. Once, he said, he let Officer Rodriguez perform one song at a community gathering and then told the crowd he would bring him back on only if they revealed crime-related problems in their neighborhoods. "They finally opened up and started giving us locations" of trouble spots, the chief said with a grin.
On Sept. 11, Officer Rodriguez was driving to work on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 9:30 a.m. when he saw the smoke from the towers. He rushed to Police Headquarters and, he said, the rest of the day and week became a blur, helping solve communications problems, transporting rescue workers and securing buildings near the disaster area to prevent looting. But during those sad and hectic days, Officer Rodriguez was also called on to sing his heart out. First he was enlisted to sing at the Sept. 23 interfaith service held at Yankee Stadium. Then he sang at funeral and memorial services for victims,some for friends who had perished. And as every public gathering began with Officer Rodriguez's "God Bless America," his rendering threatened to dethrone Kate Smith's.
Over the last week alone, he flew to Salt Lake City to sing "God Bless America" at the Olympics opening ceremonies, to San Jose,Calif., to sing at a sheriff's officers dinner and back to New York to sing at a charity function and, yesterday, at Tower Records near Lincoln Center to promote the CD. A crowd of about 50 store customers, more than one teary-eyed, sang "God Bless America" along with him.
"He deserves fame because he's such a talented person," said Jennifer Luongo, 29, a teacher from Manhattan who bought two of Officer Rodriguez's CD's. "He's got a great personality and a beautiful voice."
The Police Department has allowed Officer Rodriguez to take a leave for his trip to Washington and remains extremely supportive of his singing career. At the CD release party Monday night, the first deputy police commissioner, George A. Grasso, received a $50,000 check made out to the city's Twin Towers Fund, the first proceeds of Officer Rodriguez's first single - "God Bless America, " of course - released in December.It was Daniel's idea to produce the single and donate all proceeds.
"We're very proud of him," Commissioner Grasso said. "I can't think of a better and more sincere ambassador of good will to the world. It's really what New York cops are all about."The commissioner said the department was leaving it up to Officer Rodriguez to decide whether to stay with the force. But Chief Hoehl, his boss at the Manhattan South patrol force, has already told him to pack his bags."I told him my goal is to see him leave the Police Department and take off and do well with the God-given gift that he has," Chief Hoehl said. "As well as he sings, that's the kind of person he is also. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.
"But Officer Rodriguez seems reluctant to leave the financial security. He said he wanted to wait until June, when his leave ends, to decide whether to hang up his uniform. That his fame is a result of the Sept. 11 disaster does not particularly trouble Officer Rodriguez, who considers his voice "a blessing" and insists he has never been after major stardom or fortune, only the opportunity to sing full time.
"Music to me is a ministry," he said. "I'm not a rock star or a pop singer driving around in fantasy cars. I do what God led me do."
New York City's Singing Cop Becomes 'America's Tenor'
By Bernie Bernard, May 2002
Daniel Rodriguez is a New York City police officer who captivated the country with his version of "God Bless America" atone of the tribute concerts televised after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He's just released his debut solo album, The Spirit of America, and is currently studying with renowned tenor Placido Domingo at the Washington Opera in the Nation's capitol.
Officer Daniel Rodriguez has helped heal the nation with his songs of hope. He has also sung the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium and at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Growing up in New York City, Daniel listened to rock music as well as Broadway tunes and operas. He started singing professionally at age 12. When Rodriguez became a family man at age 20, he had to put his musical career aside.
Daniel said the New York City Police Department offered the financial security he was seeking. "I like the idea of being center stage in life,"he said, "in the big city that's New York. So, I took the test and passed it, and I went to the police academy. And it was probably what re-animated my career. I became the official National Anthem singer for the Police Department."
On his debut album, The Spirit of America, Daniel Rodriguez offers a collection of patriotic, folk, classical and inspirational songs. He also chose Broadway tunes, such as "Bring Him Home, "This Is The Moment"and "Into The Fire," that inspire determination and hope. Officer Rodriguez said, "These are songs that, at one point in my life, I heard and said, 'that is so beautiful. I would love to record that, I would love to sing that.' I'm glad you mentioned 'Into The Fire,' because that happens to be one of my favorites. 'Into The Fire' is a song of triumph, of going through adversity and coming out on the other end triumphant. And I think our country has done the same thing."
Following his high-visibility performances in the past few months,Daniel Rodriguez was invited to study with Placido Domingo the WashingtonOpera Company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Now on a year-long leave of absence from the police department, the singing officer knows exactly what he wants to gain from this opportunity."I want to find what roles in the opera best suit my voice," he continued, "and I wish to come away with at least two roles that I can take out to the world and show another side of Daniel Rodriguez. Broadway has some beautiful songs and some gorgeous notes, but it doesn't really show the full color of the voice as opera will.
Daniel Rodriguez said he is comfortable with the idea that people are looking at him as a symbol of the American spirit."People have referred to me as 'America's Tenor,'" he said, or 'The Voice That Healed a Nation.' I feel very, very proud to be given those titles, because music to me was always a ministry. Everything in my life has always been directed by faith. I feel that I've been blessed with a voice that touches people, and my responsibility is to share it with as many as possible. And so if that comes with the title of 'America's Tenor' or what not, then I'll accept that title gladly and try to represent the title."