Hitting the Right Notes for Audiences Around the World
Former Awana clubber Roddy Chong’s artistic gifts have taken him to entertainment heights and places he never expected.
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As an accomplished musician and gifted violinist, Roddy Chong has performed for a variety of audiences around the world. He’s played for former President Bush, the Queen of England, Oprah, the Pope and Bono.
Not only has Roddy performed for world leaders and celebrities, he’s also played to sold-out stadiums. As a featured musician for two of country music star Shania Twain’s world tours and also Celine Dion’s “Let’s Talk About Love” international tour, Roddy has had the opportunity to perform on nearly every continent. In 2003, Roddy played violin center stage at the Super Bowl halftime show and has performed on several other primetime TV specials.
“My ability to play the violin has brought me to places around the world,” Roddy said. “I’ve never had a regular job. My career is God’s provision for me. God has led me to be a performing artist.”
God has been leading Roddy’s life every step of the way since he was a young boy growing up in Schaumburg, Illinois.>
The influence of family, church and Awana
Roddy’s parents, who grew up in the Philippines and are of Chinese heritage, helped lay a foundation of faith for Roddy and his older sister, Erika, who is now a pediatrician in Chicago. As a family, they were actively involved at Calvary Baptist Church in Schaumburg, Illinois and later Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.
Roddy regularly attended Awana in third through seventh grade and studied the high-school handbooks on his own so he could attend an Awana summer camp in Wisconsin and also Canadian Adventure, which was a camp for high-achieving Awana students.
“I had a great time in Awana,” Roddy recalled. “I met friends from my elementary-school years in Awana who I’m still in touch with today. I met some good people.
“Memorizing verses helped with discipline and created a solid Bible-based foundation to my faith. I enjoyed the process of memorizing verses and earning awards. I participated in AwanaGames™, too.”
Roddy now enjoys watching the next generation of kids experience Awana. His niece and nephew attend Awana at a church in Chicago and are learning the same verses Roddy and his sister memorized over 30 years ago. And believe it or not, they both play the violin.
‘More to artistry than the skill’
Roddy never dreamed his musical talent would allow him to perform in front of millions of people. His parents encouraged him to try violin when he was just 2 years old.
“It was a lot of pressure as I grew up playing because I felt I wasn’t as good as the others, but my parents always encouraged me and said I had a knack for it,” Roddy said.
He continued his training in classical music. But by age 17, Roddy quit and didn’t pick up a violin again until after college. He graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and African-American studies.
“I started playing again after college when I got involved in a few bands,” Roddy explained. “It was easy and fun and I got big responses when I played. I view myself as a performer and not just a violinist.”
Roddy’s big break came when he joined the Christian rock band Jars of Clay on the tour for its first album. From this experience, he developed some important contacts with booking agents, publicists, music executives and other artists in the music industry. It led to tours with Rebecca St. James and dc Talk.
In 1997, Roddy’s life really changed. Country music star Shania Twain needed a violin player for her upcoming world tour. Roddy was invited to audition. He was chosen to join the year-and-a-half-long tour and began a rigorous schedule on the road. While in the middle of this tour, Celine Dion approached Roddy to join her for a series of sold-out concerts. In between Shania’s concerts, Roddy played with Celine and her band.
“I was very inspired by the work ethic of my employers,” Roddy said. “They influenced me to perfect my skills and consistently perform at a high level. People think that you just get up there and play, but it takes hours of preparation. Actually executing the performance with the conviction and flair that people want to experience is worth it.”
Opportunities to influence others
Not only is Roddy gifted musically, but he also enjoys acting and has appeared in movies, commercials and TV shows. He’s also been a cast member in several theatre productions in Chicago. He has been seen on TV for a national commercial with Perkins Restaurants and in the movies “Payback” with Mel Gibson and as a kitchen singer in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”
Roddy has also appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the season opener for “The Drew Carey Show” in 2001.
In addition to his tours with the aforementioned musicians, Roddy’s touring and guest-spot credentials include SheDaisy, Elton John, Kelly Clarkson, Brian McKnight, Katharine McPhee and Lonestar. He recently returned from a tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Over the years, Roddy has enjoyed building relationships and working with a diverse group of people. He realizes his sphere of influence is unique and with that privilege come regular opportunities to be an example to others in how he lives his daily life.
“People respect me for my faith. It’s who I am," Roddy said. "I believe I’m exactly where God wants me to be. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I was made for this.”
For more information on Roddy, visit his Web site.