Santiago Rodriguez

con-santiago-rodriguez-150Fearing the Cuban government under Fidel Castro would take away their right to decide how their children would be educated, Cuban families organized with the Catholic Church over 50 years ago and did the unthinkable. They sent thousands of their children to live in the United States alone. From December 1960 to October 1962, more than fourteen thousand Cuban children immigrated into America. This dramatic action, called Operation Pedro Pan, is the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere.

Virtuoso Cuban pianist, Santiago Rodriguez, was one of those brave children. He entered the country with only the clothes on his back, a small amount of money concealed in his clothes, and a note from his mother begging the nuns who would care for him to continue his music lessons. For the next six years he lived in an orphanage in New Orleans. The sisters did honor his mother’s request. Two years later at the age of ten, he made his concert debut with the New Orleans Philharmonic and is now considered to be one of the finest pianists in the world.

Rodriguez graduated magna cum laude at the University of Texas in Austin and received his Master’s degree from the Juilliard School in 1976. His international career was launched in 1981 when he won the Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

During his career he has performed with dozens of major international orchestras. He has a vast repertoire of over 65 concertos and recital pieces. He is also considered to be one of today’s foremost interpreters of Sergei Rachmaninov’s compositions.  In a 2010 interview prior to a performance in Orlando he said, Rachmaninov felt the emotions I feel. I don’t have to translate them or think about them. He’s an itch I can’t finish scratching.”

In addition to concert performances, Rodriguez has developed a distinguished reputation as a teacher. He became a member of the Piano Division at the University of Maryland in 1980. While there, he served as both a professor and as artist-in-residence. In September 2009 he accepted a similar position with the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.  Recently he served as Chair of the Jury at the William Kapell International Piano Competition in College Park, Maryland and at the San Antonio Piano Competition in Texas.