Opera singer discovered on campus

Who knew Pierce College had their own Enrico Caruso on campus?

Juan Rodriguez, lead painter at Pierce, has been working for the college campus for about 10 years and is modest and discrete about his hidden talent of being an opera singer.

With a strong voice that has sent chills up many peoples’ spines, Rodriguez always loved singing; not only as a hobby, but as a passion.

Before becoming a painter, Rodriquez had been singing since he was a young boy.

Growing up, he listened to opera in his household along with many other genres of music. He felt that he could reach the unreachable high notes that only the famous singers on the radio could hit.

“It just felt like my soul was coming out of my mouth,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a feeling that is hard to describe but it is the best feeling.”

Inspired by well known singers, Mario Lanza, Placido Domingo, and Enrico Caruso, Rodriguez decided to pursue a career in singing. He went to Los Angeles Valley College and enrolled in singing lessons to improve and master his artistry. He then later met Carl Thomas, a singer for a company in New York which worked on “Phantom of the Opera”; he became a close friend and colleague.

Thomas began to mentor Rodriguez when he noticed the passion and drive Rodriguez had for music. Although classes from Thomas were expensive, Rodriguez felt that a chance to work with a well-known and talented Broadway singer would be an experience of a lifetime, and for Rodriguez it was.

“I worked with him for four years,” said Rodriguez. “I always paid attention and took everything I could out of it.”

Besides lessons at Valley College and learning from a professional, singing has always come naturally for Rodriguez.

Fifteen years ago, before all the lessons he sang in a mariachi band that played three times a day on Thursdays and on the weekends for various social events.

Rodriguez has performed at Pierce’s football games singing the national anthem, at Valley College, and at weddings for friends and relatives.

“I want to sing in front of even more people,” Rodriguez said enthusiastically. “I want to put on a big concert.”

As the years passed, Rodriguez got married and formed a family. With a wife, son, and daughter, Rodriguez felt the need to put his singing career aside in order to provide more time towards his loved ones.

“Even though it is my dream to be a singer, it is a very time consuming career,” said Rodriguez.

He then decided to build his own painting company to provide for his family and later applied for a job at Pierce, where he obtained a job as a lead painter.

His job consists of removing graffiti with his co-worker, Samuel Reyes, and keeping maintenance around the campus wherever it may be needed.

“Juan is a hard worker and a great friend,” said Reyes.

Even though he put his passion aside, Rodriguez didn’t hesitate to focus on the well being of his family.

“He is a hard-working family man and does everything to take care of us,” Alejandra Rodriguez, daughter of Juan Rodriguez, said in a heart-felt manner. “He put aside his dreams just for us.”

In the future, Rodriguez plans to sing for fun and keep learning every day.

“It’s my passion,” said Rodriguez. “I’m always going to keep on singing.”

Besides singing, Rodriguez also enjoys spending time with his family, fishing on weekends, and going out for an occasional run.

“Overall, life has been good to me,” Rodriguez said. “I am very fortunate, and I hope life will always be that way.”

Rodriguez is looking forward to setting up his biggest concert yet and touching the hearts of many opera fans.

“I love being able to express my feelings,” said Rodriguez. “If you can make others feel how you’re feeling through a great performance, that has to be one of the best feelings ever.”