GRAPEVINE, Texas — Eduardo Rojas is one of the most in-demand music teachers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But to understand what makes him such a great teacher, you’ve got to hear his story as a student.
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Rojas' parents didn’t have much -- but they saved enough for a piano.
“I used to give recitals, concerts, I mean literally recitals since I was 7 years old, 8 years old,” Rojas told WFAA.
“I was just in love [with piano].”
At age 13, Rojas moved 12 hours from home to train at a conservatory. He practiced up to 18 hours a day, often sleeping under his piano.
“Somebody actually gave me a mattress, because I used to sleep on the floor or on the bench of the piano,” he said.
“It was hard because I didn't really have much money. I'd eat once a day, or something like that.”
As he got older, he said, Rojas sacrificed social opportunities to train. He never went to parties.
“A guy did open a bar across from the conservatory, and I used to go,” he said.
“Sometimes he’d give me a beer, and then I'd go back to practice at the conservatory. Sometimes I could pay for the beer, sometimes I couldn't.”
All that sacrifice and grit eventually earned Rojas a prestigious music scholarship 2,300 miles away in Fort Worth.
At TCU, Rojas said, he had no friends, money or car.
And didn’t know a word of English to boot.
"Since I was at TCU, I used to see all these people, and I thought, I want to be one of them, or even better," he said.
Rojas said he watched cartoons to pick up some English and, as he’d done all his life, kept training.
“Now you need to prove yourself,” he told himself.
“You didn’t come to the United States to cry.”
Rojas became a successful concert pianist in DFW. It was his longtime dream -- but still not enough.
“And so I said…what else?” Rojas laughed.
He made extra cash teaching at-home piano lessons for DFW families. The father of one of his students, he said, was a very successful business man.
“So I asked him, how can I live like you? Close to you, but in music education. Because I know how to teach but I don't know business.”
Rojas listened to the dad’s advice, and eventually saved enough to open “Rojas School of Music.”
He now operates two campuses and employs 25 instructors who teach 500 students, with plans to soon open another location.
“And I want to keep growing, because I want to keep impacting more, all of this community,” he told WFAA.
And that’s what makes Eduardo Rojas such a remarkable teacher.
He’s a living lesson, that even if you don’t come from much, you can always work hard and change your tune.
“I’ve known many talented people without discipline. They don’t go very far.”