Alex W. Rodriguez is a writer, improviser, trombonist and PhD student in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, where his current research focuses on jazz clubs around the world and the creative improvised music communities that surround them. Drawing from ethnographic case studies in three countries, he this research will be included in his doctoral dissertation, “Making Jazz Space: Listening For Creative Music Practice in California, Chile, and Siberia” under the direction of Steven Loza, David MacFadyen, James Newton, and Timothy Taylor.
Growing up in Portland, OR, he took up the trumpet at age 10 and switched to the euphonium two years later. His developing interest in jazz and his work with Portland-area trombonist and educator Ben Medler led him to the trombone shortly thereafter. In 2001, he was a part of Medler’s first Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, which has grown into a pillar of the Portland jazz education community.
From July through December of 2005, Alex lived in Santiago, Chile, where he performed with jazz musicians in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Performances included his participation in the 6th annual Trombonanza trombone festival, and gigs with Los Andes Big Band at LaPaz Festijazz and El Club de Jazz de Santiago.
Alex graduated with his BA in Music from Amherst College, the first Trombone Performance major in the College’s history. At Amherst, he also took courses in ethnomusicology with Jeffers Engelhardt, Mirjana Lausevic, and Tim Eriksen. During that time, he studied trombone with David Sporny and Tim Atherton and performed with two of Amherst’s premier party bands, The Shark Spaceship and The Funk Department. His senior recital, “The Slide Show: A Tribute to Eight Trombonists of Personal and Historical Significance” featured the works of Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Brown, Al Grey, Jack Teagarden, Bennie Green, JJ Johnson, Kai Winding and Fred Wesley.
He later completed an MA in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University, studying with Conrad Herwig, Lewis Porter, Henry Martin and John Howland. His MA thesis, “White and Blue: Alternate Takes on Jack Teagarden” is a four-part analysis of one of the first great jazz trombonists, Jack Teagarden. He has contributed to jazz.com’s Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, as well as jazz-related coverage for The Star-Ledger, Hartford Advocate, NPR Music, LA Weekly, and WBGO.
Alex still occasionally contributes jazz coverage to NPR Music and served as the Editor in Chief for the open access academic journal Ethnomusicology Review in 2014, when was also Brass Instructor and Creative Director for the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra and Pluralistic School One Elementary School. He also co-leads the UCLA Omni-Musicality Group, with Steven Loza, and is the Assistant Director for the UCLA Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Charley Harrison.