Daniel Rodriguez shares the story behind his new Christmas album. December 8, 2014, By Dr. Nancy Berk
During a devastating time for our nation, the world was introduced to the magical voice of police officer Daniel Rodriguez. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Rodriguez, the official singer of the NYPD’s prestigious Ceremonial Unit, took the stage at Yankee Stadium’s Prayer for America to perform “God Bless America”. Since then, the man, who will be forever remembered as “The Singing Policeman”, has focused on using his music to bring hope and inspiration to others. So I was honored when talented tenor Daniel Rodriguez recently shared with me the story behind his new Christmas album A Glorious Christmas.
DR BERK: What was your inspiration for “A Glorious Christmas?
DANIEL: The time was just right. For years my friends and family have been asking me to record a Christmas album, but there was never time. There was always another project or something else would take up my time. But now that I have a 5-year-old who is loving the idea of Christmas, I get to relive Christmas through her eyes. So the time was right to put other projects aside and record "A Glorious Christmas".
DR. BERK: With so many beautiful holiday songs, was it difficult narrowing it down to ten selections?
DANIEL: Probably the most difficult hurdle I faced in the project was the selection of music and the way the music would be presented. So many holiday songs have been sung in every way imaginable, so the job becomes doing what people are so familiar with in a new way. For this task, I enlisted some dear friends who have been with me for many, many years. My engineer Dave Rideau, a great arranger Tim Heintz, and amazing conductor and first rate musician in his own right Mark Riley. These men helped me realize my dream by taking beautiful songs – well known and some not so well known– thus creating a fresh new sound.
DR. BERK: Your voice will forever be associated with hope and strength. Is that something that stays with you and influences most of your projects?
DANIEL: Hope and strength, as well as inspiration and faith, will always be a part of who I am and my music is definitely influenced by those ideals. In the days following September 11th, I realized that all of my life I was searching for a career and what I truly had was a calling: a calling to use my voice to make a difference in the lives of many in a time it was needed most. If you look back at the seven CD projects that I have done so far, there have always been songs of strength and inspiration. There is always a message of hope.
September 8, 2016
Daniel Rodriguez performs at Mayo Sunday
If anyone can attest to the healing power of music, it is former New York City police officer Daniel Rodriguez. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rodriguez sang “God Bless America” at public events such as the “Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium, as well as other televised events. The sight of a uniformed policeman delivering patriotic songs in an operatic tenor did much to unite the country after those shattering events. But Rodriguez said that music helped him personally. “I had to deal with post-9/11 and with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he said. “Music was always there. It helped me find a purpose.”
Retired from the NYPD since 2004, Rodriguez has devoted himself to music full time. Billed as “America’s Beloved Tenor,” he will perform at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Sunday, Sept. 11, exactly 15 years after the day that changed his life.
A Brooklyn native, Rodriguez always loved music. “My mother said I could hum tunes before I could speak,” he said. When he was 11, he started singing professionally; at age 16, he sang at Carnegie Hall’s Del Terzo Studios. “I always believed my life was meant to be singing,” Rodriguez said. However, a possible career in music was shelved when Rodriguez started a family at age 19. “I had to put food on the table,” he said. He took a number of jobs, from short-order cook to cab driver, before he joined the NYPD. As one of the department’s officially designated National Anthem singers, Rodriguez came to the attention of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. An opera buff, Giuliani arranged for Rodriguez to have an audition at the Metropolitan Opera. The audition was less than auspicious. He had barely sung a few notes when the Met official interrupted him. As Rodriguez recalled, “His first words to me were, ‘What makes a New York City policeman think he can be an opera singer?’. “So I towed his car,” Rodriguez joked. Though an opera career seemed unlikely, Rodriguez would perform concerts, usually for charities.
He became known as “The Singing Policeman” and was the subject of TV documentary segment on CNN. Then came a bright Tuesday morning in September 2001. “I lived in Staten Island, and was crossing the Verrazano Bridge when I noticed a lot of ashes and computer paper floating in the air,”. Rodriguez made it across the bridge. He said that a last-minute decision to turn left at the end of the span effectively saved his life. “If I had turned right, I would have been under the second tower when it fell,” he said. “I rendered what aid I could and made my peace with God a couple of times that day.” As it turned out, his real work began in the aftermath of the attacks. “I realized I had found a calling, as opposed to a career,”
The concert he will give in Morristown is typical of recent performances. “A lot of people expect a 9/11 concert to be solemn,” he said. “But it will have a lot of different colors. I do some Latin songs, some patriotic.” All the choices are personal, according to Rodriguez. “The music is connected to my story,” he said. “The concert has a theme and a line to it.” Most of all, Rodriguez wants to emphasize the same emotion that characterized his first performances after Sept. 11: hope. “My goal is for people to leave the concert feeling better than when they came,” he said. “We are resilient, and are still fighting back. We can live and laugh and dance. I want to celebrate that. We need to celebrate who we are. I believe there is a happy ending.”
September 6, 2016
‘Singing Policeman’ to mark 9/11 with concert in Morristown
By Peggy Carroll
He was a New York City cop from Brooklyn and an operatic singer. In the aftermath of 9/11, he became the “Singing Policeman.” On Sept. 11, 2001, Daniel Rodriguez was one of the first responders when the planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He was at Ground Zero for months, missing only the days when he was called upon to attend memorials and the funerals of too many of his peers. He went to sing, to use the trained bel canto tenor that was his other profession.
It was this voice that made him known as the “9/11 Singing Policeman.” In those stark days, and in the time after, he believes, he was seen as “ a symbol of the healing process, giving some sense of comfort and normalcy” to a traumatized city and nation. On Sept. 11, 2016, Rodriguez, now 52 and a full-time singer, will mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks with a performance at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. He will present a blend of classical and popular music, the patriotic and inspirational, traditional and jazz and Latin songs from his Puerto Rican heritage.
It is the first time Rodriguez has appeared in his own production, rather than as a guest or entertainer at a charity or special event. But it continues the quest he has set for himself: To rediscover the unity the nation experienced in the wake of the attacks. “For a brief period, our differences dissolved,” he says. “We came together. We treated each other with compassion and generosity. We were all connected. And then suddenly, it was gone.” People, he said, remember 9/11 as a time of profound sorrow. They also should remember that it proved the nation’s strength and resilience.
Rodriguez started life as a kid from Brooklyn, the first son of Carmen and Jose Rodriguez, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico when they were in their teens. It was a musical family. Both his father and grandfather also were tenors and many of his cousins are musicians. His own talent was nurtured by a teacher, Elliot Dorfman, a Juilliard-trained singer who took him under his wing. He also studied with Juilliard’s Aldo Bruschi andMiraslov Markoff of the Moscow Ballet and Opera. He performed at Carnegie Hall’s Del Terzo recital hall when he was 16.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
He was living in Staten Island and was driving to work on the Verrazano Bridge and could see the fire on the Twin Towers. He managed to pull into the HOV lane and work his way over the bridge. At one point on his frantic trip, he said, he made a decision to turn left. “If I had turned right, I would have been under the first Tower when it collapsed,” he says. He was two blocks away when it fell. He was at the Trade Center when the second came down. “I made my peace with God several times that day,” he says. But the policeman’s job was to “protect and serve,” he said, and so they did. He worked that day with a mobile command as first responders shepherded dazed survivors across the Brooklyn Bridge.
At one point, there was a temporary morgue right behind his unit. “We saw so much,” he recalls. “We witnessed too much.” He was on the site for three or four days –he is not sure which – before he got home for the first time. “We slept on cots and people brought us clothes and food,” he remembers. For the next few months, he was at Ground Zero every day – except for the times he was asked to sing at funerals and civic memorials. Through all of his police work, he had not put his music aside – and his talents as a singer were known by his peers. One of these memorial ceremonies was to change his life. He sang at the “Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 23, 2001. It was a nationally televised tribute to the fallen and a promise to rise again.
AN INVITATION FROM PLACIDO
Also on the bill was Placido Domingo, who invited him to attend the Domingo/Vilar Young Artists Institute in Washington DC for 18 months of opera study. He also became the Police Department’s emissary, appearing on numerous TV shows including Oprah, Regis and Kathy, Larry King Live, David Letterman, and the Early Show, and because he is fluent in Spanish, on Spanish language programs. He often was presented as “America’s Tenor. ”In those months, too, he sang at the Carnegie Hall season opening and was signed to his first recording contract. In 2004, he retired from the police force and has made music his full-time profession. He has since recorded several albums and appeared as lead tenor in several operas. He also regularly appears in support of charities and performs a full domestic and international concert schedule.
The Augusta Chronicle
Posted July 3, 2017
Charmain Z. Brackett
‘9/11 Singing Policeman’ to perform for Star-Spangled Fourth
Special Daniel Rodriguez, a former New York City policeman dubbed the 9/11 Singing Policeman travels the country with the “Healing Songs of Hope” concert tour. He will be in Augusta on July 4 to perform during the Star-Spangled Fourth event at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Daniel Rodriguez believes in the power of music to heal so much so that the former New York City policeman dubbed “the 9/11 Singing Policeman” travels the country with the “Healing Songs of Hope” concert tour. “Music is an amazing therapy,” said Rodriguez, who will be in Augusta on July 4 to perform during the Star-Spangled Fourth event at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.
A classically trained tenor, Rodriguez dreamed of being a performer. At 16, he performed his first concert at Carnegie Hall, but his dream didn’t pay the bills. He worked a series of jobs until at age 30, he joined the New York City Police Department. Sept. 11, 2001, changed his and many other lives. Rodriguez was headed to work that day when he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He arrived on the scene and saw both towers collapse. He was almost among the casualties. Sept. 23, 2001, thousands gathered for the Prayer For America event at Yankee Stadium, and the Singing Policeman sang God Bless America. He also met tenor and conductor Placido Domingo on that day and a dream was resurrected. “I believed I’d lost my dream,” he said. “I walked some dark roads of depression for not becoming what I thought I’d become.”
His dark roads led to the embrace of his faith. He retired from the police department in 2004, and in 2006, he performed in Pagliacci with the Chelsea Opera Co. in New York City. He has been on numerous television programs including The Late Show With David Letterman, Oprah and Larry King Live. He performs about 100 times a year and also does speaking engagements telling his story of healing and his battles with depression. He also performs with a group called the New York Tenors. With that group, he will perform at Carnegie Hall later this year.
Rodriguez said his faith and his music led him to realize that he was leading not necessarily the life he’d always wanted, but “the life that had been prepared for me.” And his journey prior to Sept. 11, 2001, was all part of that life. People often comment to him how inspirational his story is and how it has touched their lives.
For the Augusta concert, Rodriguez will sing songs of patriotism as well as some healing songs. He said he’s excited about his appearance in the Garden City. “I love Augusta,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Savannah, and Augusta is one of the places I’ve enjoyed visiting.”
Rodriguez will be backed by a 100-member chorus and orchestra.
After the concert, there will be an afterglow party in the River Room, which will have some of the best views of Augusta’s fireworks display.