SMU graduate uses campus incubator space to promote learning, performing
By Caroline Neal
For Rodman Steele, music is in his DNA.
His mom is a pianist. His two uncles are musicians, and his great aunt was a fiddler, Steele said. “We would always play music together as a family.”
So, opening Rodman Steele Studio in 2018, a business devoted to music education, felt natural.
The studio, located in the Incubator@SMU, has 50 students, ages 2 to 85. It offers lessons in various instruments, such as guitar, voice, and other performance-related topics, like music production.
Steele, who graduated from SMU in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in music, got his start in music education, teaching private lessons to choir students at Highland Park Middle School.
Steele participated in choir while attending Highland Park High School, describing the experience as his “favorite thing in the world.”
He founded Rodman Steele Studio to create a place where people could “be nurtured in their enjoyment of music” through mentorship, he said. “I’m very devout in the belief that it is a part of a musician’s life to pass on the tradition and teach the tradition to others.”
One memorable student for Steele was a high school senior who got his first guitar the Christmas before graduation. He started lessons with Steele in January and bought himself an electric guitar six months later. At their next session, the two spent the entire hour with the student improvising on the new guitar and Steele playing along with him.
“I was so grateful that I could see in him the development from day one,” Steele said.
Steele also founded the studio for the instructors, wanting to foster “an environment for fantastic musicians to make a living playing music, both performing and instructing.”
One way Steele has accomplished this is by having bands, like the jazz and rock bands that instructors play in. Each instructor, Steele said, “is also a performing professional musician.”
I’m very devout in the belief that it is a part of a musician’s life to pass on the tradition and teach the tradition to others.Rodman Steele
Voice instructor and SMU graduate Griffin Camacho is in the jazz band.
Camacho said the bands differentiate Rodman Steele Studio from other music education businesses.
“[Steele] encourages us to be performers,” Camacho said. Even with a degree in voice from SMU, Camacho said he’s constantly learning and brings what he gains in performances to his teaching.
“The more you perform, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you can teach to your students,” Camacho added.
Steele said he believes that the personalized curriculum makes Rodman Steel Studio unique. He spends the first lesson getting to know the student’s interests –– both musical and non-musical. Throughout the students’ time at the studio, he prioritizes instilling confidence.
“Every great musician has a great musician or a family of great musicians that inspired them to do what they do,” Steele said. “My job is to be that for other people when it comes to my education and teaching.”