The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Jack of all trades

Upon first meeting Dean Randolph Ortiz, one would never suspect that it was actually his distinguished music career which led him to his job in academia.

Ortiz, who initially came to St. John’s as a Social Science Adjunct to teach Sociology and Psychology, attended Queens College as an undergraduate and then progressed to Skidmore College, Fordham University, Niagara Institute, and the SES Business and Tech Institute. Over the course of his years of study, he received numerous degrees; namely, Industrial Communications, Social Psychology, Liberal Studies, and Digital Electronics and Computer Technology. But long before Ortiz embarked on his prominent and lengthy academic pursuit, he discovered his true calling in music.

Ortiz became a musician at a very early age, studying piano, violin and cello at the New York School of Music. As a teen, he grew interested in rock and then became a bass player. But it was not until he began conducting a Latin Band in Puerto Rico that Ortiz discovered the genre of music which would eventually bring him success in the music industry.

During the period when Carlos Santana was becoming popular on the West Coast, the unique sound of two New York based Latin-rock groups caught the attention of young Ortiz, who was a 19-year-old up-and-coming rock bassist and arranger at the time.

“What was different about them,” said Ortiz, “is that local groups either specialized in playing Soul, Rock or Latin music, and never combined the three.”

Ortiz had been searching for a way to combine the powerful sound of rock with the rhythm of Latin music, and was able to have his dreams realized through the union of these two groups, which joined to form Seguida. The group became the opening act for the popular Spanish TV show Salsa and was able to work with famous musicians such as Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Ray Baretto and Eddie Palmieri.

In 1973, under the musical direction of Randy Ortiz, the band leadership of percussionist Angel Nater Jr. and guitarist Louie Perez, Seguida gained a recording contract with FANIA records, the home of all major Latin bands, and flourished to eventually become the Latin-Rock pioneers for future bands to use as a prototype.

Seguida’s unique mix of funk, hip hop, rock, r&b, salsa and jazz was a phenomenon on the East Coast, proving their diverse musical style to be a hit. Their first album, “Love is Seguida,” was released in 1974 and was embraced by both Salsa and Rock fans in New York and Puerto Rico. The group’s success led to an invitation to open the 1973 “Fania All-Stars” concert at Yankee Stadium, and eventually being awarded the prestigious title of 1976 Latin Rock Band of the Year by Latin New York Magazine. Ortiz’s own exceptional musical direction and insight was recognized by the music industry at large when he was nominated to be a part of the Grammy pool for both Instrumental Composition in 1978 and Latin Album of the Year in 1976.

However, throughout all of this time, Ortiz did not limit his experience to composing, arranging and conducting Seguida. He also arranged for the Latin stars he learned from, such as Tito Puente, Larry Harlow and Eddie Palmieri, to name a few. A short while after, Ortiz became involved in the building of the state-of-the-art recording studio in the basement of the infamous Studio 54, called Soundworks, as an engineer.

Through becoming friendly with technicians employed by other companies who were also working on the Soundworks project, Ortiz was hired as a digital tape engineer by the diversified technology company 3M Worldwide. At this same time, the members of Seguida became frustrated with the music industry. The group officially became dormant in 1984.

“There was rampant drug use, people ripping each other off and worse. It was a cutthroat industry, so I became divorced from the business of music entirely.”

This was one of the major turning points in Ortiz’s life, because this is essentially was the step which led him into academia. Ortiz continued with 3M, stood out immediately, and was sent to technical school by the company. Soon after, he was hired away from 3M Worldwide by the Digital Equipment Corporation, which is now Hewlett Packard, as a tape repair trainer (i.e., technician who repairs tape drives). Ortiz had extensively developed his digital electronic background at the time a position was being offered to teach customer relations skills at Digital. Upon taking this position, he began to study social psychology and became an Educational Consultant for Digital, and then eventually left Digital to become an Independent Consultant. Among his clients were Chase, U.S. Air, New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Development, and Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service, to name a few.
At this point, Ortiz’s experience included occupations in technology, human relations, and business. These impressive credentials paved the way for his position at St. John’s.
“I had a background in these three fields, and the Administrative Studies Program at St. John’s comprises these same three components,” said Ortiz. “I was hired in 1998 as an Adjunct, promoted to Program Director in 1999, and then became the Assistant Dean of Professional Studies in 2006.”
This brings us back to Ortiz’s roots in the music industry. About five years ago, member Steve Adorno approached the newly appointed Dean Ortiz to discuss bringing the group back together. Under the band leadership of Steve Adorno and the original founding fathers Ortiz and Lou Perez, Seguida has made a comeback and released their third album, Seguida III, in the Summer of 2007.

However, just because Ortiz has returned to Seguida and re-assumed his roles as producer and conductor, he has not slowed down or abandoned his career as an accomplished professor, dean, and author. Among his published works are Inequality; Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination, How Work is Organized, and Perspectives in Social Psychology. At the present time, Ortiz is working with the Office of Children and Family Services, dealing with youth who have been incarcerated in an attempt to prevent them from repeating their offenses.
Needless to say, Randolph Ortiz has led quite a spectacular life, filled with extraordinary and enriching experiences, both in the field of music and elsewhere. And what exactly does Ortiz have to say about the broad spectrum of knowledge and experience
he gained from his several careers?

“Life is really a composition of music,” he said. “You don’t stop one career and start another. You take the learning from one part of your life and apply it to another. With my life it’s very obvious that pieces reprise all the time.”

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