Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Iván Enrique Rodríguez

December 7, 2021 | By Zachary Lewis

Composer & Conductor

For Bay area composer Iván Enrique Rodríguez, the pandemic provided the impetus to write about the experience of living in an adopted homeland during one of its most trying periods. A native of Puerto Rico currently finishing a doctoral degree at Juilliard, Rodríguez said the pandemic shutdown, along with its attendant surge in awareness for racial and social justice issues, gave him the “moment of introspection” he needed to address music topics that already had been weighing on his mind for years.

Unconscious of his skin color as a young man in Puerto Rico, Rodríguez said his move to the U.S. mainland forced him to learn “that I was also brown, and that I would never be able to forget that.” That feeling, he said, combined with the inspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement and his own acceptance of his identity as a gay man, gave him “the strength and the desire to share those things that are so important to me in music, with others.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, Rodríguez has penned eight works ranging in scope from solo violin to large ensemble and chorus. In them, he unabashedly confronts racism, the modern relevance of the Statue of Liberty, and his own sense of isolation during the pandemic. Latency Denouement, written as a serenade for COVID patients, came to mean a whole lot more after he contracted the disease himself; for a time he feared for his life.

This winter, on a much happier note, comes Christmas Realness Extravaganza, a celebration of life using Afro-Caribbean rhythms and familiar tropes from Stateside holiday music. When he received the commission from the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus, said the composer, “[A]ll I could think of was bringing us together…It is something I just firmly believe needs to happen, to be together and to enjoy something after all these struggles.”




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