Voice of America, Rochester New York, Sept 11, 2010
Every performance is special for tenor Daniel Rodriguez. It's a chance for him to follow his passion. When that pursuit finds him performing on Sept. 11, it takes on an added significance.
Rodriguez, a beloved singer known as both "America's Tenor" and "The Singing Policeman," is the former New York City cop who consoled a nation with his voice and a stirring rendition of "God Bless America" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"I began in music and always wanted to sing. It was my first love," Rodriguez said in a recent telephone interview. "Now, I'm following my passion in a way that makes me significant in the country. My career is not just as a singer, but as a singer who rose out of tragedy to help people."
This Sept. 11 will find Rodriguez performing as part of the Roberts Wesleyan College-Community Orchestra's season-opening concert. The performance, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Hale Auditorium of the Roberts Cultural Life Center, will honor service men and women with a mix of patriotic and Broadway selections.
"I think I reflect more on 9/11" when performing on that date, said Rodriguez, who plans to dedicate a song or two to police and fire personnel. Among the possibilities, he said, are "wonderful, triumphant songs" such as "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables," "Into the Fire" and "Stout-hearted Men."
"The idea that Roberts Wesleyan would do this as a tribute to fire and police officers is a wonderful thing," said Rodriguez, who previously performed with the RWC-C on March 3, 2007. Rodriguez' career has been forged from the ashes of the 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center. But Rodriguez, who was on duty and lost several friends in the attack, did not suddenly discover his love of singing after the tragedy.
Rodriguez is the son and grandson of tenors and began singing in his youth. At 16, he presented his first recital at Carnegie Hall. But by 19 or 20 years old, he put music aside -- though never far behind, he said -- to raise his family. For years, he did any job that would help pay the bills: short order cook, cabbie, truck driver, and eventually New York City police officer. "I had my 9-to-5 day jobs and on evenings and weekends I sang," he said. "Until the time that fate intervened." Rodriguez had become the go-to singer for police department events before 2001. He performed so much, he said, that he had the White House, the governor's office and the mayor on speed-dial.
After the attacks, he performed at many memorials and gained attention from the rest of the country through nationally-televised performances. His big break came a year later, when Spanish tenor Placido Domingo accepted Rodriguez -- then 38 years old -- into Domingo's first young artists class. Several albums and high-profile performances have followed.
2011: Patriotism's new face 10 years after 9/11
"I want to be an ambassador to show that positive things rose out of the ashes. We survived. We thrive, and we are spiritually still alive."
CBS NEWS: With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 less than a week away, "The Early Show" begins a series that looks at how we've changed since that tragic day.
Some joined the military, often derailing careers to answer the call of country. Pat Tillman famously put his football career on hold to join the Army, and tragically lost his life in Afghanistan. Others lined up to donate blood. The Red Cross says more than a quarter million people decided to donate blood for the first time. And then there's Daniel Rodriguez, the singing police officer. Rodriguez was on duty that Tuesday in September 2001.
Rodriguez recalled, "Things I remember, the sounds of the radio -- officers calling for help. And we just did what we had to do, I was a New York City police officer at that moment."And after the carnage, Rodriguez, a tenor, was asked to sing at funerals and tributes.
"When I sang, that's when my healing began," Rodriguez said. "I began to heal and really feel like I was playing my role in this tragedy."Rodriguez discovered that he could do more good as a singer than he could as a cop.
So he left the force and embarked on his mission to lift spirits with his voice."I want to be an ambassador to show that positive things rose out of the ashes," Rodriguez says. "We thrive. We survived, and we are spiritually still alive."
May 20, 2012: Troy Ohio - Music sparks patriotism
Former New York City police officer Daniel Rodriguez performs “Bring Him Home” during A Celebration of Freedom at Troy’s Hobart Arena Sunday evening.
At Sunday's Celebration of Freedom concert, Daniel Rodriguez joked that he received his first ever key to a city - that city being Troy, of course - but that the locks seemed to be changed.
Despite his lighthearted comments, Rodriguez was serious about honoring America's heroes during the special concert at Hobart Arena, in which he performed with the U.S. Air Force Band of Flight. The event was dedicated to all the safety responders and armed forces who have served and continue to serve the nation, as well as victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their families.
"I am honored and humbled to be here playing with the band..." said Rodriguez, who's known as "The Singing Policeman" for his dynamic performances. "Thank you, Troy, for remembering our first responders and all those who sacrificed themselves on that day." Hosted by the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, the 7 p.m. concert featured patriotic selections including "America the Beautiful," "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and "God Bless America."
The audience was brought to its feet when Rodriguez was introduced a few songs into the show.
Major R. Michael Mench, conductor of the Band of Flight, said Rodriguez inspired Americans during one of the roughest periods of U.S. history.
"He comforted us in the days, weeks, months and years after (9/11) with his music," Mench said. Rodriguez performed for memorial events and had several TV appearances.
Sept. 11, 2001, is one of several days in American history that will never be forgotten, said master of ceremonies Frank Beeson, publisher of I-75 Newspaper group including the Troy Daily News. Those other moments in time include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the release of Iranian hostages following Ronald Reagan's inauguration and the Challenger accident. Mayor Michael Beamish thanked all those who made the concert possible and helped in preserving and bringing the World Trade Center artifact to Troy.
"Troy is special because of many partnerships," he said. Sponsors included The Troy Foundation, I-75 Newspapers, the city of Troy, Hobart Arena and Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, among many others. Scott Mazzulla, director of planning and development of Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, paid tribute to the World Trade Center artifact that will proudly be displayed in the Miami Valley Veterans Museum. The piece was dedicated earlier in the weekend. "I can tell you I spent a lot of time with this piece. It touches you. It moves you," he said. Stephen Larck, president of the museum, said Sunday's program served as a reminder that Americans must not forget the price others have paid for our freedom.
"Today we're here to honor and celebrate these heroes," Larck said, adding that the audience should leave with "a renewed sense of pride and patriotism."