The Catholic University of America

Maria Rodriguez

A Backstage Look at Writing in the Arts

When Maria Rodriguez was a sophomore, she went to a piano recital on the campus of Catholic University and was treated to what she called a “stunning” performance by a well-known concert pianist. She wanted to share the experience with others.

“That was the thing that drew me, that inspired me to write,” said Rodriguez, now a senior. “I took it upon myself to bring that story to the people.”

She found an outlet at the student newspaper, The Tower, as a writer for the Arts and Entertainment section, and later, in her junior year, as editor of the page.

As a student journalist, she travelled throughout Washington, D.C., previewing and reviewing some of the capital city’s finest musical and theatrical performances and bringing those reviews to the student body. Her favorite place to review was D.C.’s premier arts venue, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It was at that venue that she found an even broader audience for her work. Last summer, she was selected for one of the Kennedy Center’s nationally recognized internships and was placed in the public relations department.

For nine weeks, she was immersed in the world of arts journalism from the “other” side, promoting the work of the Kennedy Center to the journalists who would write the reviews and helping to bring the stories of high-quality performances to audiences all over the country.

“I had such a fantastic experience at this internship that I feel prepared to take on a new challenge,” Rodriguez said. “I got a lot of experience and tricks and tips; the whole toolkit in terms of how to go about thinking with the press mind. It’s nice to know what they’re looking for in a writer, and, from the writer’s end, how to persuade people to take a story.”

One of Rodriguez’s responsibilities included finding reviewers for performances at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, which features free public performances 365 days a year. Rodriguez was tasked with finding the perfect journalist for particular events.

For World Refugee Day, Millennium Stage featured a performance by a Syrian violinist. Rodriguez found a journalist who specialized in writing about refugee musicians and because of her recommendation, the journalist wrote a review of the performance.

“It took a long time, but I finally found someone, through BuzzFeed actually,” she said. “Something I learned about myself is that I like to take on unmanageable projects. Perseverance definitely counts.”

Rodriguez also got to put her own writing skills to work. She wrote individual press releases about each of the internship program’s 35 interns and pitched those stories to media outlets.

“I wanted a holistic sense of what the world of art journalism is like; to see both sides. I feel like I’ve been able to take a class in the world of journalism,” she said.

The senior history major isn’t sure exactly what her future holds, but she knows she has found a passion in writing. She’s excited for her work this semester on her senior thesis on “the role of Stalin’s ideology of nationalism in the foreign relations between the new Soviet Union and the Irish Republic.” Though she enjoys academic writing, she loves the thrill of journalism.

“It’s the same skill set but applied in a different way,” she said of her journalistic writing. “You’re constantly looking for something new and immersing yourself in a new world. You learn everything you can about something, and then you move on.”

When she writes, she is still driven by the same motives that pushed her toward arts journalism that day in Ward Recital Hall: the desire to bring the beauty of art to those who might not experience it otherwise.

“When people care about something, when they care about the art, they care about the culture more,” she said. “I would love for people to dip their toes in the water of something new. That’s what drives me; to have people try something new and become invested in a side of the culture they haven’t seen before.”

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Maria Rodriguez

Hometown: Montgomery Village, Md.

Major: History.

Minors: Medieval Studies and English.

Study Abroad: University of Oxford’s Jesus College, England.

Favorite spot on campus: The Tower office.