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Daniel Rodríguez: 1964—: Former Law Enforcement Officer, Singer

Became New York's "singing Cop"

Rodríguez's first stint as the "Singing Cop" was at his Police Academy graduation in March of 1996, when he sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before 2,000 policemen. He told the Digital Journal website, "it was probably what re-animated my career. I became the official National Anthem singer for the Police Department." As he moved up the police ranks from patrolman to vice officer to community relations officer, Rodríguez regularly sang at police events and benefits. He had divorced his first wife, and through a coworker had met his second wife, Ginamarie. In classic show-man fashion, he proposed to her while onstage during a Christmas benefit concert. Each year Rodríguez opened the "Broadway on Broadway" concert series in Times Square by singing the national anthem. In 2000 Rodríguez's friend, New York's then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, secured Rodríguez an audition with the Metropolitan Opera. It was disastrous. Not only was Rodríguez nervous, but just as he was about to begin his audition he was interrupted by a member of the audition panel who asked, "So what makes you think a New York City police officer can sing opera?" In recalling this frustrating incident to the Los Angeles Times, Rodríguez said, "The man didn't understand. I wasn't a cop who sang, I was a singer who became a policeman."

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Rodríguez was on the job. "I was just about two blocks away from the World Trade Center when the first plane collided with the building," he recalled to the Plain Dealer. "After the second plane hit, I was immediately assigned to City Hall." Over the next week, he joined fellow officers working at Ground Zero and also manned a temporary morgue. "It was a devastating time," he told the Plain Dealer. "Everything you've heard, it was even more horrible than that." Then on September 23, he took the stage at Yankee Stadium, and for the first time "felt that I was contributing," he told the New Bedford, Massachusetts, Standard Times. "My life took on a new dimension. I felt as though I was part of something great."

Fame came quickly for Rodríguez following the Yankee Stadium show. He appeared on major network programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and the Late Show with David Letterman. He sang at everything from sporting events to grand openings, including a performance at the White House. As the world embraced police officers and firemen as America's heroes, Rodríguez returned the affection with his powerful renditions of "God Bless America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The "Singing Cop" became the "The Voice that Healed the Nation" and "America's Tenor." The fact that he was a New York police officer who had lived through the terrorist attacks added immeasurable poignancy to his performances, but it was his voice that propelled him to fame.

One of the first to take note of Rodríguez's powerful singing ability was opera superstar Plácido Domingo. He invited Rodríguez to attend the prestigious Vilar/Domingo Young Artists Program at the Washington Opera, where Domingo was the artistic director. One of only 11 students chosen for the intensive voice course, Rodríguez took a leave of absence from the police force and began the program in March of 2002. For a man whose career had mostly been made up of show tunes and patriotic favorites, the switch to opera was challenging. "The most difficult thing was memorizing Italian and re-learning how to sing, almost," he told the Hispanic Magazine website. "And everyone there was a lot younger—in their 20's—with a lot more experience in opera." At 37 he was not only considerably older than the rest of the students in the program, but well past the age when operatic careers are launched. However, with typical optimism he undertook the classes and training with vigor. On whether he would continue to pursue a career in opera or return to Broadway standards, Rodríguez told the Standard Times, "I've decided that I would feel most comfortable doing both."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyDaniel Rodríguez: 1964—: Former Law Enforcement Officer, Singer Biography - Abandoned Singing Career To Support Family, Became New York's "singing Cop", Launched A Full-time Singing Career