Rodrigo Villanueva

Professor of Jazz Studies

Rodrigo Villanueva-Conroy is a professor of jazz studies at NIU. He teaches jazz drum set, jazz arranging and directs the NIU Jazz Ensemble. He also teaches at Birch Creek Percussion and Steel Pan Summer Program.

Villanueva-Conroy has presented master classes at many higher learning institutions and performed concerts at jazz venues and festivals across the United States, as well as in Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and South Korea.

He has played and recorded with many leading jazz and classical artists including Jangeun Bae, Craig Butterfield, Frank Caruso, Eddie Gomez, Fareed Haque, Stefan Karlsson, Alex Mercado, Hiro Morozumi, Jon Nelson, Ed Saindon, Rodolfo Sanchez, Ben Sidran, Anders Svanoe, Liam Teague, and Takayoshi Yoshioka, and Latin pop stars Shaila Durcal, Alejandro Fernandez and Lucero.

Villanueva-Conroy performs frequently with the Eddie Gomez Trio, the Alex Mercado Trio, the NIU jazz faculty group, Nucleus, and the Anders Svanoe Trio, as well as his own jazz trio. He endorses Sabian Cymbals, Yamaha Drums, Evans Drumheads, Vic Firth drumsticks and Latin Percussion. In 2010 Rodrigo launched his own record label, Jazzling Records. The first production of this project was the Eddie Gomez Trio album: Live In Mexico City with the legendary Eddie Gomez on bass, Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and Rodrigo Villanueva on drums (© Jazzling Records 2010).

He has been featured at the Jazz Education Network, the Percussive Arts Society International Conference and the Midwest Clinic.

Villanueva-Conroy is a 2020-2021 recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program to Brazil, which is devoted to increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. This project: "Cracking the Afro-Brazilian Rhythmic Code," will generate new literature for solo drum set composed by Rodrigo based on Brazilian rhythms, and at the same time, will facilitate exchange programs between NIU and some of the most prestigious Brazilian college jazz programs.


M.M., University of North Texas


  • Jazz Studies
  • Jazz Ensemble



"I am not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you."  - G.B. Shaw

That sums up my teaching philosophy, encouraging my students, or I should say, my fellow travelers, to study jazz drums in a musical fashion with a strong grasp of Jazz styles and other genres derived primarily from the African Diaspora.

Together we work towards developing a solid rhythmic feel, good sound and internal balance of the kit. In addition, we learn how to improvise in a wide variety of styles, with a well-rounded historical perspective of the evolution of jazz drumming, acquiring the necessary tools to be a competent musicians in both, large and small jazz ensembles, with the ability to sight-read and interpret jazz and other genres with musicality.

Rodrigo Villanueva-Conroy  

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Music Building
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - noon
1 - 4:30 p.m.

Austyn V. Menk
Music Admissions Coordinator

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