Jazz violinist Rodney McCoy overcoming stroke to play again

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Rodney McCoy has been blessing the world with beautiful violin music since he was nine years old.

“My mother was a concert pianist and I wanted to play the piano, but the next likely thing was the violin. It was love at first sight,” McCoy said.

RodneyMcCoy
RODNEY McCOY

McCoy began studying the instrument privately under the direction of mentor and friend Sister Francis Assisi Gorham, a member of the Sisters of Charity and director of the Seton Center’s Suzuki School of Music.

By the time he became a teenager, McCoy enrolled in Pittsburgh’s Center for the Creative Arts and later joined the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony and the Ozanam Strings Jazz Ensemble.

He was seldom seen without his violin.

While with the band, McCoy garnered numerous scholarships and awards including Best Jazz Vocalist by WAMO-FM106.7 for four consecutive years and Best Performer at the ninth annual African-American Awards show in 2004.

McCoy attended Mount Aloysius College and studied privately with Ed McGuire. He extended his musical knowledge under the tutelage of Hank Levy, jazz music director at Towson State University in Baltimore.

Once returning to the Golden Triangle, McCoy continued his studies at Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh under Nathan Davis.

He has released two CD’s: “Top Secret” and “Deep Pockets.”

In addition he has appeared with other musical greats including David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Jr., Kenny G., Roy Ayers, Vanessa Williams, Regina Belle and Gerald Albright.

But when the Garfield resident was stricken with a stroke a year and a half ago, he though his days of strumming the violin were over.

“I worked at the Rivers Club and one day I was dizzy. My sister came by my house and noticed that my car was sitting. She came into my house and saw me lying on the floor and took me to the hospital,” McCoy recalled.

McCoy was in a coma for three days.

From there he was in Shadyside Hospital in the intensive care unit for two weeks and then housed in a nursing home in Squirrel Hill for a month.

During his ordeal, McCoy’s car was impounded for 30 days at a cost of $1,400.

He has raised some of the money for the impoundment but still owes a balance.

“Lots of people have said they wanted to help me, but no one has done anything,” he said.

Throughout it all, McCoy felt like part of him had been lost.

“I felt like something was missing and I realized it was my music,” he said. “Music is a big part of who I am. Music is like a spiritual feeling. When I had my stroke I listened to a lot of my own music and the music of other violinists but I didn’t think I’d be able to play my violin again.”

But God had other plans.

Following months of physical, occupational and speech therapy, McCoy is back to living life again.

“My recovering is coming along real good. I am back to playing my violin again and I was asked to produce music for The Urban Jazz Violin Players. The CD, which should be completed by the end of the year, will include various genres of music like smooth jazz, gospel, Rhythm and Blues, and traditional Christmas music.

In addition, earlier this year McCoy was offered an opportunity to showcase his musical talent at a reception at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I want to thank Pitt, Robert Hill, vice chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Public Affairs Office and Sandra Moore. This gave me the strength to forge ahead with my music,” McCoy said. “Everyday I thank God for saving my life and giving me another chance to create music.”

Send all donations to: Rodney McCoy, Huntington Bank, Account. 041215032. All checks to Rodney McCoy.

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