Mr. Tomas J. Rodriguez
Guitar / Teacher
Music journalist Norman Weinstein (The Christian Science Monitor) writes that “Tomas Rodriguez plays guitar with a passionate originality, with an individual touch, drawing from the musical heart of the Latin world. Resonances from the folk and classical traditions of Spain and South America are richly evident in his playing, but he transmutes them into a sound clearly, fervently his own.” Tomas Rodriguez is defining a new sound for the Spanish guitar. Through his original compositions and interpretations of other works, Mr. Rodriguez explores African rhythms as well as lesser-known pieces in Latin American and Spanish guitar repertoire.
In 2004, Mr. Rodriguez received a prestigious grant from Arts International to perform in the International Festival of the Guitar in Lima, Peru, where segments of his performance were broadcast on Peruvian national television and radio. In addition to solo and ensemble appearances at prominent New York area venues such as Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Museum, Merkin Hall, Trinity Church, and the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts (NJPAC), Mr. Rodriguez’ and his group were also specially selected to share the stage with Wynton Marsalis and the Boys Choir of Harlem in a gala tribute to former New York Philharmonic Director Kurt Masur. From 2004 to 2008, Mr. Rodriguez was the regular guitarist for afternoon tea at New York’s St. Regis Hotel. His audience included such guests as Yo-Yo Ma and Bruce Springsteen.
Rodriguez was born in Washington D.C. of but grew up in New York, New Jersey and Boise, Idaho. He showed an uncommon devotion to music at an early age, knowing all of Beethoven’s symphonies at age five and frequently acting as guest conductor in his parent’s living room for amused friends and relatives. He devoured music from his father’s record collection ranging from the boleros of Latin crooner Lucho Gatica to Frank Sinatra.
At 16 he took up the electric guitar, learning to play by ear from Jimi Hendrix records, then performing with rock and rhythm and blues groups in Boise, Idaho where he lived. Not until the early 80’s while attending Bard College in upstate New York did he pick up a Spanish guitar. Cellist Luis Garcia Renart—a protégé of the late Pablo Casals and a friend of the late Andrés Segovia – encouraged him to get in touch with his Spanish heritage and taught him the basics. He later received a scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music with classical guitarist Sharon Isbin. After a semester at Manhattan, he left to become the lead musician with Pregones Theatre, an innovative Puerto Rican theatre company based in the South Bronx of New York City, where he became immersed in Latin styles.
Last year, Mr. Rodriguez created a new trio, AFARA, a boundary-breaking collaboration of Spanish guitar, African percussion and the African mbira about which one critic wrote: “AFARA mines the deep spirit encoded musically throughout the African Diaspora, a rare achievement in itself. Marking their sound is an engaging groove, touching harmonies, and a mesmerizing exploration to discover how to bring the tonal continent Africa into a global symphonic world map.”
Mr. Rodriguez is also a dedicated music educator. He founded and directed an innovative after-school guitar program at one of New York’s largest social service organizations, utilizing music from Latin America and Spain to teach basic guitar skills to Latino young people. He has also taught guitar at the Essence School, a junior high school located in East New York, Brooklyn. Mr. Rodriguez is also a registered Suzuki guitar teacher and directed the Suzuki guitar program at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music during 2007 and 2008.