Paying a Vocal Tribute
By Joseph Maldonado,
The Daily Record/Sunday News.
Monday, July 5, 2004
Thousands enjoy fireworks and the music of the York
Symphony Orchestra and a renowned tenor.
Thousands of eyes gazed up into the sky above the York Expo Center Sunday night for York's annual Independence Day fireworks celebration. The rockets red glare illuminated the crowd of those watching from below.
While the fireworks were a feast for the eyes, the York Symphony Orchestra and New York City tenor Daniel Rodriguez provided a feast for the ears earlier in the evening.
This was the third time Rodriguez has sung with the symphony. He was first invited to join it for its 2002 winter fund-raiser. Symphony director Henry Nixon said that the concert was one of its biggest draws ever. "We asked him if he would be available for the Fourth of July, and he said " yes", "Nixon said. "We"ve now had him for two Independence Day shows."
Rodriguez is a retired New York City police officer. He rose to fame after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. In the weeks that followed, Rodriguez was involved in the post-attack rescue operations. "I was on bucket detail," he said. "We used buckets to remove debris to look for survivors."
On Sept. 25, 2001, Rodriguez was invited to sing the national anthem for the New York Yankees. It was the first home game they played after the attacks. "Some thought the people of New York would stay home," he said. "But the place was packed, proving that we are a people who refuse to live in fear."
The tenor's stirring rendition of the anthem led to a career in music that has taken him around the world. He has performed more than 350 concerts in the last two years.
A surprise in the mail
During last year's festivities in York, Rodriguez was signing autographs as he usually does before a concert. As the line made its way through, Maurita Harbold and her son, Carlton, of York Township, asked if his music was available on something other than a CD. "We told him we did't have a CD player, but unfortunately, CDs were all he had," Maurita Harbold said.
Rodriguez's manager took their names and address and said he would see what he could do. A few months later, Maurita Harbold said her son received a package in the mail. "It was Daniel's CD," she said. "And a CD player to play it on."Coincidentally, the player showed up the day before her son's 57th birthday. "Symphony music is my favorite," said Carlton Harbold, who has cerebral palsy. "And Dan is my favorite."
Before he began to sign autographs Sunday, Rodriguez walked past the Harbolds and recognized them right away. He gave them a hug. "He's a real prince,"Maurita Harbold said.
As Rodriguez finished his first song, "America the Beautiful," those in attendance came to their feet. One of those people was Joe Mendez.
Mendez was visiting the Lancaster area from Brooklyn, N.Y., on vacation. When he heard that Rodriguez was singing, he came to York.
"My sister has heard him and said he is wonderful,"Mendez said. So I didn't want to miss this. This man is a patriot, and he represents what being a New Yorker, and an American, is all about."
"After Sept. 11, I realized that I had to use my gift," Rodriguez said before the concert.
"I knew I had to use my talent to pay tribute to those that lost their lives and to the indomitable spirit of this country. The terrorists thought they could intimidate and scare this country. But thousands still come to my concerts proving that this country will not stay home and live in fear."
NYPD singer's big break comes at toughest of times
By Steve Penhollow. April 12, 2004, The Journal Gazette
Daniel Rodriguez has been a full-time singer for more than two years now, but he still talks like a police officer from Brooklyn. He still refers to his car as his "personal vehicle."
Rodriguez was in his personal vehicle crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that links Brooklyn and Staten Island in the fall of 2001 when he saw Tower One burning.
He followed a convoy of ambulances headed for the World Trade Center, but decided at the last minute to check in at headquarters first. That decision saved his life.
To the extent that anything good came out of that disaster, Rodriguez can be thanked for a sizable measure of it. His rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the interfaith memorial service at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 23, 2001, was a light in the gloom for
The grievers who first found solace in Daniel's talents could not have known that between public performances, Rodriguez was also working the bucket brigade and morgue detail at Ground Zero.
Rodriguez will probably forever be known as the "Singing Policeman." He will perform Saturday at the Honeywell Center in Wabash. Before 9/11, Rodriguez was already the official singer for the NYPD. He has been singing all his life.
Truth be told, a career in law enforcement was a second choice. Owing to the competitiveness of the music business, Rodriguez made a seemingly inescapable habit of second choices: the postal service, a furniture factory, a greasy spoon.
He never stopped singing on the side, offering his vocal services at fund-raisers, organizing self-funded concerts and showcases. "Before I was known as the 'Singing Policeman,' I was known as the Singing Postal Worker,' " Rodriguez says with a laugh.
He sang at his own police academy graduation ceremony and made a high-profile friend: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "He came up to me and said, 'You should be singing at The Met.' And I said,'Well, if there's anything you can do...' " Perhaps Giuliani was the only man alive who could pull those kind of strings.
Rodriguez got his Metropolitan Opera audition.
He knew immediately the audition wasn't going to go well. "The guy said to me, 'I don't get it. What makes a New York City police officer think he can sing opera?' "
Rodriguez explained to the man that he thought of himself as a singer first; that he had received classical training, but was not classically trained in the strictest sense of the phrase.
Rodriguez says the audition was so comically brutal, it was like a scene out of a movie. "He stopped me literally in the middle of the first note, saying,'No, no, no, no, no.' "What bothered me was that I had spent my whole life in the theater. It was so disheartening. All I could do was tell myself that someday they'd come asking for me and maybe I wouldn't be available that day."
But the great thing about having friends in high places is that they also have friends in high places.
Giuliani ran into tenor Placido Domingo one day and Domingo said: "I heard they gave that boy of yours a hard time. I'll listen to him."
It wasn't until after 9/11 that Domingo got a chance to hear Rodriguez, but he was complimentary.
" 'That was very good, very nice,' " Rodriguez recalls Domingo saying. " 'You have such a wonderful natural voice. Now try it like this . ' " Domingo offered Rodriguez an opportunity to study with him in his Young Artist program.
Rodriguez went directly from his meeting with Domingo to Yankee Stadium to sing the national anthem.
Afterward, he ran up to Giuliani's box at the stadium to tell him the good news.
"I said, 'Your honor, I just left Placido and he asked me to come study with him.' And the mayor said: 'You must go. It is your destiny. I always knew you weren't cut out for police work.' And I said, 'The thing is . . . you've got to give me the time off.' "
Giuliani got him his leave of absence, a leave that exists to this day - a return ticket to law enforcement. Rodriguez won't take it.
Several weeks after his Honeywell Center show, Rodriguez will officially leave the New York City Police Department for good. He got the singing career he always dreamed of . . . and something more besides. He says he sees his career as a ministry.
"People come to me with pictures and tell me about the people they've lost."I have a deep spiritual belief. If it is part of my destiny to be an instrument of God - to provide comfort - then I will try to do what I can."