Elias Rodriguez has spent the last year in Paris doing what he loves – playing the clarinet. The gifted musician, who graduated from Duncanville High School in 2008, fell in love with the instrument while participating in the district’s band program.
“I remember when I was in high school I would think to myself 'I kind of wish I didn’t take this so seriously so I wouldn’t have all this pressure on me to do well,'” Elias said. “But, ultimately it was that pressure that made me better and made me strive to be excellent. Looking back I’m really grateful that I had those experiences.”
Elias earned his undergraduate degree in music from Baylor University. He immediately got hired as an associate director of bands at a middle school in Mesquite ISD. During that time, Elias set aside his own performance goals so he could focus on his students, but he missed playing.
After a year of teaching, Elias decided to forego the security of a full-time job with benefits to pursue his master’s degree in music at the University of Michigan. As he was working on his degree, Elias was offered an opportunity to move to New York City for a three-year fellowship with an ensemble called ‘The Orchestra Now.’
The paid position allowed Elias to perform with the ensemble at esteemed venues like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also recorded two albums with the group and played as a soloist on New York Public Radio.
Elias also earned two master’s degrees in music along the way – one from Bard College while he was completing his fellowship in New York. He finished his master’s from the University of Michigan online while he tried to determine his next move.
While looking for orchestral jobs, Elias came across an amazing opportunity to move out of the country to study with top musicians in France. He auditioned for the position and in June 2019, Elias was awarded the Harriet Hale Wooley Scholarship and moved to Paris on a one-year scholarship.
“It was like a dream come true because I never expected that I would go overseas and that my clarinet would take me there,” Elias said.
The scholarship ran out in June 2019, but Elias got a job and plans to continue to live in Paris and study with his mentor until he is sure what his next step will be.
“My dream is to play in a full-time professional orchestra,” Elias said. “Since I was young this is what has always been my passion. It’s been hard, but it’s what makes me happy.”