Student uses music as therapy



Julian Rodriguez, a sophomore and music education major, was elected last semester as president of the Nu Beta Chapter for Kappa Kappa Psi at Texas Wesleyan University, a national honorary society and fraternity for bands.

He is currently KKPsi’s vice president and plays flute in the Texas Wesleyan Music Department, and his goal is to become a vocal music therapist for special needs children with autism and learning disabilities.

His interest in music therapy started 10 years ago when he used music as an aid for his little sister, Gabrielle, when she was seven years old.

“She had a learning disability and couldn’t focus which made her parents doubt her learning skill,” Rodriguez said. “I was able to know her strengths and weaknesses and helped her develop her learning disability after playing my music.”

Rodriguez learned there was a “healing power of music.”

“There was a soothing nature to it,” Rodriguez said. “To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just singing and playing my flute.”

Years later, when  he was in high school in Fort Worth, he worked as a party host for six months at a Chuck E. Cheese’s and worked primarily with special needs children by assisting them at their parties.

“When I started working with more special needs kids, it just kind of sparked in my head about pursuing it professionally,” Rodriguez said.

His desire to do music therapy as a job became stronger at the same time, when he found out music therapy was a field of study for college.

Rodriguez said participated in the all-region band and choir during his junior year of high school, and the all-state band and choir in his senior year before graduating in the spring of 2013. He was a four-time state soloist and got a passing score in the University Interscholastic League Solo and Ensemble contest,  where he sang for  judicators and was then able to advance to the state contest held at the University of Texas at Austin.

In his senior year, Rodriguez received an award from UIL for Most Outstanding Vocalist and received  one of the highest scores of the day in the competition,  he said.

In between his senior year in high school and freshman year at Texas Wesleyan, he assisted his high school choir director and several middle school choir directors in coaching students for contests. He taught students from Western Hills High School, Leonard Middle School and McClain Middle School.

“I was helping and teaching students how to sing in a more professional manner and style that fit within the song that they are auditioning for,” Rodriguez said.

His teaching helped students compete in auditions like the Region 7 All-Region choir and the 2014 State Solo and Ensemble contest.

During his freshman year at Texas Wesleyan, Rodriguez competed in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition, which is a private association that is run by college and high school teachers.  He placed third out of 10 competitors in his division, which is for first-year college students between the ages of 18 and 20.

Last spring Rodriguez sang in the annual President’s Honors Concert.

 “As a freshman, for me to perform for the president was a huge honor,” Rodriguez said.

Hayley Eaker, a senior music education major and former president of KKPsi, praises Rodriguez for his accomplishment and said his goals will become more challenging during the next semester.

“He made the President’s Honors Program as a freshman, which is an outstanding opportunity,” Eaker said. “He plans on venturing deeper into conducting for his next couple of semesters and is learning more difficult and renowned vocal literature.”

Rochelle Beeson, a junior and music major, said Rodriguez doesn’t let anything get in his way in music.

“He is very serious about music—practicing and studying hard—and he is very outgoing,” Beeson said. “He is a great person and is dedicated to his major and everything else he does.”

Christine Beason, the Nu Beta chapter sponsor for KKPsi and Texas Wesleyan band director, is excited to see what Julian will do in the next few years.

“Julian is outstanding! He is a natural leader with clear ideas and opinions,” Beason said. “He is a hard worker and works to raise the bar for himself and everyone around him.”

Rodriguez plans to graduate in fall of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in music education and hopes to teach music and choir at a secondary level. He is aiming for his master’s and doctorate degree in music therapy by 2024, after teaching.

“My future is going to be molded on where my music takes me,” he said. “I hope to one day inspire others to follow their dreams. As a music therapist I hope to help those who need music to heal them. As a person I hope to continue to follow my dreams and lead my life in the right direction.”