Music with Minnesotans: David Rodrick

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
October 12, 2011
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St. Paul, Minn. — What makes talking to David Rodrick so cool? It's how he describes the musical experience - and this coming from a journalist who never made music himself.

For the better part of two decades, David worked in television news in Sioux Falls and San Antonio, then came to The Twin Cities to work as a producer and a managing editor for a Twin Cities-based company that launched and operated news web sites for television stations all over the country.

Today, David is the Senior Producer for the cable TV show "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," a program that has taken him as far away as Mongolia.

Using a musical phrase, David tells me the leitmotifs in his many jobs are telling stories with the challenge being communicating feelings and emotions in addition to the information.

I call music a ruling passion because it energizes, instructs, and inspires me like nothing else can. And it's been the key to maintaining a spiritual center while working in a business that's notorious for cynical reductionism.
- David Rodrick

David's connection to music came at ten years old listening to Leonard Bernstein talk about how to listen to music - and not how many young children listen with pictures or stories in their minds - but as pure music. He calls it a lesson in close listening, experiencing the drama and excitement within the music itself, instead of imagining Fantasia-esque visual narratives. David says that was really valuable for someone like him who doesn't play an instrument or read music. And the performance was a demonstration of the passionate intensity in classical music, an intensity he continues to experience to this day.

This doesn't keep him from seeing things with humor, pathos or cinematically. His first choice is the final movement from Haydn's Symphony No. 88. To describe the flurry of activity he tells us of a puppy running on a parquet floor with his claws going wild as he scurries around a corner. A fabulous image.

It's no surprise that the cinematic property of music is a way music connects for David Rodrick. He tells me a bonus in his work is the creative satisfaction in telling stories with words and pictures. He produces, writes, and directs a mini-movie five days a week.

Also on the list is a scene from Hector Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet. Berlioz is a hero, someone whose risky experiments paid off. He's intensely passionate about the things he loves, devotes his best energies to them and refuses to betray them, at great personal cost.

A TV news anchor David worked with once told him, "In this business, if you haven't been fired at least once, you're probably not doing it right." That's the personality in Berlioz David connects with.

David brought in one of my favorite composers - Gustav Mahler - a composer he says who would make sense of the current media landscape that includes varied, often angry and loud, voices all speaking at once.

The session concludes with Beethoven played by one of the great interpreters, Alfred Brendel. For David, this late music of Beethoven's embodies all that classical music means to him, with a kind of directness and simplicity. There's a wonderful positive "yes" said to life in this music and it somehow puts our own lives into context.

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David Rodrick's playlist:

Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 88 - Bernstein/Vienna

Hector Berlioz, Romeo and Juliet - Cleveland/Boulez

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 9 - Bernstein/Concertgebouw

Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 31 - Alfred Brendel

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Next week, garden designer Don Ladig is my guest. He plays wooden flutes and is a former modern dancer with a wide musical taste that includes Handel, Steve Reich and Dave Holland.

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