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Exceptional Alumni: Derick Cordoba Director of the Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music

FIU alumnus, Derick Cordoba (’08), after receiving his Master of Music in jazz performance, went on to have great achievements in the jazz and performance industry. As a musician, to date, he has produced over 20 recordings, toured more than 20 countries and sold upwards of 150,000 copies of his jazz guitar performances. Now, Cordoba has been appointed as director of the Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music and is currently an assistant professor of music at the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University.

How has FIU helped you get to where you are today in your career?
Getting my master’s degree gave me the opportunity to study with world-class jazz faculty and helped me to hone my craft. It also gave me the necessary tools as a performer and academic to succeed in my doctoral program.


What path did you take to attain your current career at the Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music and as assistant professor of music?
After earning my master’s degree at FIU, I moved to Bonn, Germany for four years where I taught guitar, performed and ran the contemporary music program at an English-speaking church. I then returned to the U.S. to earn my Doctor of Musical Arts in jazz performance  from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While in the program, I was an adjunct faculty member at University of Illinois at Springfield as well as Richland Community College. This gave me the teaching experience I needed at the collegiate level to be hired to be the Unit One music coordinator for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After three years in that position, I was hired by the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University to be the director of the Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music as well as assistant professor of music.


How did you feel when you were appointed director of the Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music?
I was very excited to not only be teaching music courses there, but to help shape the future of the program. It has been a long-time goal of mine to be in a leadership position at a university.


What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The students. We have a wonderful and talented group of students who have a variety of interests and focuses.


What does a typical day for you look like?
Like every college professor, it varies based on the day of the week.  My busiest day is Friday where I teach Improv I or II depending on the semester. I then lead a commercial music seminar very similar to the forum I attended while a student at FIU. I also teach Introduction to Commercial Music, a business course later that day. Finally, I lead a rehearsal of the commercial music ensemble I direct. Of course, I teach other courses and meet with both faculty and students frequently during the week.


How does your job connect back to your coursework while at FIU?
Many of the courses I took, like jazz pedagogy and improvisation, directly informed the way I structure my courses. I also have kept in touch with several students and professors from my time at FIU. Some of them, like Tom Lippincott and Ash Jangda have been guest artists or speakers in my past and current program.


Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
I learned a lot from Gary Campbell, Michael Orta and Tom Lippincott.


What advice do you have for students interested in a career in music?
Be flexible and be prepared. You never know what opportunities will arise and you need to be ready to take advantage of them. Hone your craft, but also pay close attention to the business side of the music industry as it will affect your career. Stay in touch with your classmates. You will do gigs with them and draw on their talents long after you have graduated.

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