Four Minutes with Maia Rodriguez, a member of the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters

Four Minutes with Maia Rodriguez, a member of the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters

“Sea Chanters have a unique way of establishing commonality through the universal language of music,” says first-generation Cuban American Maia Rodriguez. “Every single person in that space may come from different backgrounds and have a different story, but for the two hours we sing, there is something special that is shared between us all.”

Chief Musician Rodriguez, a mezzo soprano, is among the members of the United States Navy’s official chorus that will perform March 16 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville as part of a 21 day tour through Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. She answered these questions for What’s Up!

Q. Tell us all about you.

A. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I fell in love with acting first, and was kind of shy about singing until I heard some of my friends in the Cleveland Singing Angels chorus. It was kind of like a light switch went on. I knew I wanted to be part of that and immediately joined. Through that youth chorus, I sang at the White House, performed on TV, traveled to other countries, and really got to be placed in all kinds of different situations, learning all kinds of musical genres. Fast forward to my career as an actor and singer in my 20s: I worked for Tokyo, Disney Sea. There, I befriended someone who would later on join the Sea Chanters, and his experience was such a positive one that he sort of encouraged me to try out. I auditioned in 2012 and was hired.

Q. What is life like as a Sea Chanter?

A. When I first joined the Navy, I shipped out to the fleet and served a year in a Navy Fleet Band in San Diego. Here I got to front rock bands and sing as a soloist quite a bit. Life in the Sea Chanters differs a little as you’re one piece of a larger whole, vocally speaking. … We are often called last minute to sing protocol gigs, which serve high-ranking military and civilian officials who are hosting ambassadors, or military officials from foreign countries. It is expected that we learn music to sing in their language and execute that expertly.

I also really enjoy our music in the schools program or our MISs. We get to meet with and engage with all sorts of demographics of students, and I love hearing the types of music that they enjoy singing and listening to. You never know who is going to be the next Sea Chanter!

All members of the United States Navy Band are required to attend Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes in Illinois. This teaches us the military side of the job and what is expected of us. Once I reported to Washington, D.C., I became attached to the Washington Navy Yard Naval Base. While this is where I work, it is not where I live. Many of us are scattered in and around the DC/Virginia/Maryland region.

Q. What songs are you especially loving singing on this tour?

A. Because of my Cuban background, I always love singing songs in Spanish, so I look forward to performing our bossa nova version of “Bésame Mucho.” I also really love my Starboard Sirens, our female funk contemporary group. We are singing “Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters. But when I’m not on stage, I love listening to my talented colleagues. So many of them consistently impress me with the kinds of skill sets they have built over a lifetime. It’s truly remarkable.

Q. What do you hope the audience is saying as they leave the theater?

A. I truly believe there is something for everyone in attendance because the musical genre variety is so vast. I hope that it gives the audience a better understanding of what the Navy is doing out on the front lines. We have the benefit of traveling to locations where those that serve cannot go. I also hope the patriotic moments are touching, and that the entertaining moments make them laugh. If any of them have served or have members of their family that served, I hope it gives them a sense of pride.



Sea Chanters

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. March 16

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — Free; tickets required

INFO — or 443-5600

Categories: Family Friendly