MUSIC AND THE WHOLE CHILD
My vision for teaching the guitar is strongly rooted in Shinichi Suzuki’s vision of doing service to “make all the children born upon this earth fine human beings, happy people, people who are capable of realizing their highest selves”. In the 1950s, when Suzuki began his unique method of training young people in music, he was motivated by the devastation of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He sought to create a better world in which the possibility of such destructive action would never arise again. Today we have different challenges. Yet music continues to be a powerful force in awakening a capacity to see and appreciate beauty, to respond to others with compassion, to face challenges with grace, sensitivity and confidence, and to connect with others. These qualities are something that are easily eroded and lost in a world obsessed with consumption and constant stimulus. I seek to realize these goals by giving individualized attention to each student and family while calling on over 20 years of professional experience as a performing musician. I understand that solving a challenging musical problem is not that different from solving an academic or philosophical one.
MUSIC, LEARNING AND FAMILY VISION
I seek to work with students and families that appreciate these deeper nuances of learning an instrument and understand that this experience is not likely to be gained in schools that have become obsessed with quantitative measuring of students’ progress. If this understanding and appreciation is in place, most families will have little difficulty keeping up with an intensive program. Families who work with me are choosing to make music an essential part of the life of their child and of their family and are generally in it for the long term – once they feel that they have found the right teacher (s) and learning environments. As a rule, I don’t do “after-school” program or “exposure to music” type of teaching.
One of my greatest joys is exposing students to lesser known genres of music and lost treasures of Spanish, Brazilian and African music. So for example in our group classes, we sit down to tackle the rhythmic intricacies of “Jarabi”, a song from Mali, West Africa that dates back to the 10th century. Or in order to increase a student’s capacity to play beautiful melodies on the guitar , we reach back to 1940’s Rio de Janeiro and learn “Doce Mentira” from the saxophonist Abel Ferreira. Or we may take on the intricate guitar lines of Nene Tshakou of Zaire, one of the greatest masters of soukous guitar, the guitar solo from Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” (1956) or rhythm guitar part from Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” (1964). In their respective genres, these are “canonical” works, which inform much of the music that emerged afterwards. By focusing on these works, I am able to convey to the students the key elements of a musical style.
Tomas Rodriguez began teaching guitar to youth over 20 years ago, when he created a comprehensive youth guitar program for the largest Latino social service agency on Long Island, Circulo de la Hispanidad. Subsequently, he completed his Advanced Certificate in Music Education in Brooklyn College, while teaching classroom and supplementary guitar programs at James Madison High School and The Essence School in East New York. In the course of his studies, he learned of the Suzuki Method and quickly completed initial training with the founders of Suzuki Guitar: the late Frank Longay and William Kossler. Tomas has completed Level 6 Suzuki Training as well as courses in “Suzuki Principles in Action” and “Setting up Families for Success”. Tomas’ unique approach to the traditional Suzuki method cultivates the child’s interest in and sensitivity to a variety of music, ranging from the classical repertoire to Latin, African and other world music. Mr. Rodriguez presentations on the topic of integrating Latin and African musics and rhythmic concepts into the Suzuki method were highlights at the 2014 and 2016 Suzuki Conferences of the Americas. The 2014 presentation was the first ever on this topic at a Suzuki Conference and generated interest amongst many prominent Suzuki teachers nationwide.
Critic Norman Weinstein (Christian Science Monitor, Boston Phoenix, Village Voice) praised Tomas Rodriguez as: “playing guitar with a passionate originality, with an individual touch, drawing from the musical heart of the Latin world. His original compositions and his collaborations with leading musicians in New York City’s world music scene create an engaging groove, touching harmonies and a mesmerizing exploration of the guitar’s rich background in the music of the Americas, Europe and Africa”. This diverse inspiration is rooted in his background. Born of a Spanish father and a mother from the Appalachian region of Virginia, Rodriguez grew up in New York City, Westfield, New Jersey and Boise, Idaho. As a child he was inspired by his father’s record collection, which included everything from Beethoven to the boleros of Latin crooner Lucho Gatica. He learned to play electric guitar by ear from Jimi Hendrix records, and later studied with renowned classical guitarist Sharon Isbin at the Manhattan School of Music. This formal study was supplemented by several summer residencies in Sevilla and Granada, Spain, where he met prominent flamenco artists and studied flamenco guitar. Rodriguez’ has performed concerts at International Festival of the Guitar in Lima, Peru, in New York’s Brooklyn Museum, Merkin Hall, Trinity Church, the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts (NJPAC), the World Expressions Series at Boise State University and the University of Virginia. Rodriguez has released three albums, “Ruminations” (2017), Dialogue (2004) and Guitarra de mi Alma (1998), all of which are available on Bandcamp.
SUZUKI ASSOCIATION OF THE AMERICAS (SAA)
Tomas Rodriguez is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and participates in the bi-annual Suzuki Conference, the Guitar Teachers ListServe, and ongoing professional training.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS (AFM) AND NYC LOCAL 802
Tomas is a long term member of New York City Local 802 and has contributed articles to the Local 802 publication “Allegro” as well as performed on many Local 802 jobs though the years.
BEATO EAR TRAINING
In early 2021, Tomas partnered with prominent music educator and producer Rick Beato to extend his ear training program to young students. This was the first attempt at using the program for a younger audience. Beato is famous for his 2015 viral You Tube video of his youngest son, Dylan, identifying individual notes within complex chords after just one hearing. Since this time Beato has become arguably the most prominent music educator on social media. He is also CEO and co-founder of Nuryl, an education-based company that produces an eponymous “Baby Brain Training App”.