Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Rodney Grisanti
Professor Rodney Grisanti began his teaching career at Mendocino College in Fall 2011, replacing veteran music professor John Parkinson, who retired in 2009. Before accepting the position at MC, Grisanti was a full-time, tenured, faculty member at Harold Washington City College in downtown Chicago.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Grisanti grew up in the South. He attended the University of Memphis, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in music and composition; then he moved on to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he earned both a Master's degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts.
To pay for college, Grisanti worked as a recording engineer. "I learned recording through internships, classes, and working in recording studios in the blues field," he explains. "I am at my best when I to have to think on my feet," says Grisanti, "which is why I love recording engineering. Every situation is different, and it forces you to improvise. That is exciting to me," he says smiling. He also taught family music at a Community Center in Memphis, where the parents learned classical guitar while the kids learned rock guitar.
Grisanti spent the summer of 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela, teaching at the Fundación Musical Simón Bolivar, a musical conservatory, where students study from the age of 7 or 8 years until they become professional musicians. College age students perform on world tours as part of their training. The conservatory has a crew of professional recording and film/camera technicians, as every student concert is filmed and recorded. Grisanti provided professional development for the recording engineers, and he also recorded student orchestras, and both student and professional ensembles.
Grisanti explains that although he was happy enough teaching in Chicago, he was looking for a college with a stronger arts program. When he saw the MC music position advertised, and checked out the performing arts website, he says, "I saw the great things happening at MC, and it sounded exciting. When I came out for the interview, I fell in love with the area because it is so beautiful, and everyone was so friendly."
Grisanti describes himself as a guitar player, composer, and recording engineer. He is eager to connect with other musicians in the area.
Grisanti says he was inspired to become a college professor by his Dad. "My Dad was a lifelong learner," says Grisanti, with obvious pride. "He was interested in all kinds of topics like philosophy, religion, art, history, and science. He would become obsessive with regard to a subject and learn everything he could about it. It made me want to keep learning when I saw how inspired he would become; and I found that the more I learned, the more I wanted to share that with other people."
Grisanti says the best part of his job is working with students. "They keep me on my toes," he says, "and they keep me energized about music."
He describes his teaching style as "communal." "When we are discussing a topic and everyone is sharing ideas," he says, "I am almost one of the students."
"I like to travel," Grisanti says, "and to communicate through the language of music." He shares that he and his wife traveled throughout Indonesia on their honeymoon, using just a guide book to get around.
When he is not working, Grisanti enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah, and their "very spoiled" dog, Abby. He likes to fly fish, and he does a fair amount of musical composing.