'Singing policeman' to perform at concert to aid youth symphony

Published May 29, 2007

Daniel Rodriguez, the tenor who came to prominence as New York's "singing policeman" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, headlines Wednesday's concert by the Florida Orchestra to benefit the Pinellas Youth Symphony.

"There'll be something for everyone, " Rodriguez said in a phone interview last week. "Some Broadway, one or two arias and some songs that are of an inspirational nature, like You Raise Me Up and Because We Believe."

Rodriguez and the orchestra are donating their fees, and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater is donating use of the venue. Ray and Nancy Murray, a Clearwater couple who have made substantial contributions to the youth symphony, were instrumental in putting together the benefit.

"We're hoping to raise $50, 000 for the youth symphony from ticket sales and sponsorships, " Ray Murray said. "And what we really want is for people to take ownership of these kids."

The Pinellas Youth Symphony, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next season, has as many as 200 musicians ranging from kindergarteners to college students involved in six orchestras, chamber ensembles and string classes. During the season, they practice on Sunday afternoon and evening at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Several ensembles will play in the hall's lobbies on Wednesday.

Rodriguez, who turned 43 Thursday, has family ties in the Tampa Bay area; his father and mother live here. Since leaving the New York police force in 2004, he has pursued a singing career.

Last weekend, the tenor sang in a patriotic program with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. Also this month, he starred as the tragic clown Canio in I Pagliacci at Granite State Opera in New Hampshire. He appears on the Hour of Power televised services from the Crystal Cathedral, the Rev. Robert Schuller's megachurch in Southern California. Later this year, Rodriguez has tours to Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

What advice would he give to a member of the youth symphony who wants to have a musical career?

"Work hard, and learn as much as you can about your instrument, about the field of endeavor that you're in, " he said. "Always remember the people you run into. When you shake a man's hand, get a business card and file that away, because that person could be the one who opens doors for you later on in life."

Rodriguez and the orchestra, conducted by Robert Romanski, perform at 7:30 Wednesday night. $20-$40. 727 791-7400; www.rutheckerdhall.com.

Note: Because of construction, McMullen-Booth Road north of the hall is closed. All traffic must approach from the south to reach the hall. Coming from the south, the route will be as always; from the north, traffic will be detoured to U.S. 19, then east on Drew Street and north on McMullen-Booth. Allow extra travel time.

STAGEWORKS: The Mystery of Irma Vep, a cross-dressing romp by Charles Ludlam, opens the 25th anniversary season of Stageworks on July 12-29. Other productions on the 2007-08 agenda include Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan (Sept. 7-23); A Picasso by Jeffrey Hatcher (January); Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon (May 8-25), and Private Lives by Noel Coward (July 10-27).

The company, led by founder Anna Brennen, will perform next season at the Shimberg Playhouse of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and Gorilla Theatre. But it is making progress on moving into its own home, a planned 99-seat black box theater in the Grand Central mixed-use complex in the Channel District of Tampa.

Andrea Graham, president of the Stageworks board, said it has raised about $400, 000 for the space. "We hope to wrap up fundraising by December with another $300, 000 to $350, 000, and then have the theater ready to go in the fall of 2008, " Graham said. The largest donation has been $75, 000 from Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel and family of Tampa.

John Fleming can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.