Joseph Rodriguez (BM, '01) tells us about being the first trombonist to receive an Artist Diploma at The Julliard School and what advice he would give to current college music students thinking about a professional music career.
How did you come to study the trombone, and what drew you to the instrument?
When it came time to pick instruments for beginner band, there were too many of us who wanted to play drums and saxophone. So, the band director brought brass instruments to try. He heard me trying the trombone and said, "You are going to play trombone!"
Do you come from a musical family?
No, I didn't come from a family of professional musicians, however, I have many memories of our family singing a lot at home and in church.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a professional musician?
I have a vivid memory when I was in high school watching the Tonight Show Band on TV. I couldn't take my eyes off of the trombonist. I turned to my dad and said, "I want to do that!"
Why did you choose to attend UT Arlington?
I came to UT Arlington for the trombone teacher at the time, Mr. Andrew Russell. He really made an impression on me from the first time I met him. He also led the amazing UTA Trombone Choir who had just won the famous Remington Trombone Choir Competition.
Are there performances or moments as a music major at UTA that stand out in your memory? Could you tell us what made these performances or moments particularly special for you?
Playing with the UTA Jazz Orchestra on the European tours. Concerts in Bad Königshofen, Germany (Arlington's sister city), Lucerne, Switzerland and at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague were particularly special to me. The Jazz Orchestra Director, Mr. Bill Snodgrass, pushed us to perform at the highest level!
You are the first trombonist to receive an Artist Diploma at The Juilliard School. Can you tell us more about this prestigious honor?
The Artist Diploma program was comprised of a small number active musicians who are already working as professionals. The program was very flexible in the respect that you could take any class that Juilliard offered. I was incredibly grateful for this opportunity because I was able to study with my idol and arguably the best trombonist on the planet, Joseph Alessi, Principal Trombonist of the New York Philharmonic. He helped prepare me for the intensity of performing and taking auditions for professional orchestras.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of being a musician?
The most challenging part of being a musician is learning to live a balanced life while spending countless hours consuming yourself in music and isolating yourself in the practice room learning to perfect your craft.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
The reward that comes after all the hard work. Many times there is a sense of satisfaction that comes after playing a concert of great music.
What are the tools of the trade that you use the most? Favorite gadget?
My iPhone! I have many apps that help me throughout the day. The calendar gets the most use. Facebook to share information about performances and events. iTalk recorder to record my practice sessions. Tonal Energy Tuner includes a tuner and a metronome. FlexBeat when I need a metronome that does mixed meter. Then of course, Apple Music to listen, a lot! I could go on and on.
What advice could you give to current college music students thinking about a professional music career?
Aim high!! There is always room at the top for great musicians. Hard work trumps raw talent every time! Raise your bar and push yourself to be better everyday. Be detailed oriented. Keep a positive mental attitude and stay focused! Be encouraged by the fact that small improvements over a long period of time adds up like compound interest!
If you weren’t a musician, what would you want to be?
It is hard to say, because music has become such a big part of my life, I can't see myself not making music in one way or another.