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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. Where did you grow up?
I was born, and raised for the most part, in New York City. My mother and I lived in different parts of Queens. I also claim Chicago as my second home, since I spent most of my summers and some of my early years there.
How did you become interested in the arts? Is anyone else in your family an actor or involved in the arts?
My father, Rodrick Dixon, is a professional Classical and crossover singer. I’ve been singing as long as I can even remember speaking. My interest in the arts though has always come just from knowing that it’s something that I was meant to do. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to put smiles on people’s faces with my gifts.
What have you learned from watching your dad pursue his career?
I see the way he attacks his roles and performances and I channel that in my own work ethic. I’ve seen that even though he is often regarded as one of the great American Tenors he never settles, and continues to find ways to challenge and build himself. I not only inherited his talents, but also his passion and drive. I’m very proud to call myself his son.
You attended the “Fame” High School in NYC – LaGuardia Arts. What was it like to go to high school there?
It’s just like the movie minus the dancing on taxi cabs in the street! It’s very competitive, but in a positive way. I’ve seen my close friends have great success during my time there, and even after. It inspires me everyday knowing that I shared the hallways and classrooms with some of those people.
How difficult is it to get in that school?
It’s pretty tough. They audition thousands of students from all over the country, in some cases the world, and every year they select hundreds.
Were you a part of a certain program or did you have a certain focus in your studies there?
I studied Vocal music. The best thing however, is I was exposed to everything! I participated in live theatre, dance, music production, and even sports.
What do you think was the most valuable lesson you learned from your time there?
Being around talent is the best way to increase your own.
After LaGuardia, you opted to forego further arts training in favor of a more traditional college education at Southern Connecticut State University. Tell us a little bit about your decision to attend SCSU.
After a successful indoor/outdoor season, I was given an opportunity to run track on a partial scholarship and attend the school. I considered conservatories and arts programs but was a little apprehensive about pursuing a career in entertainment so I decided I needed a plan B to fall back on.
What did you study during your time there?
My degree is in Liberal Studies and my concentrations were English and Italian.
Did you continue to perform during your college years?
I competed in singing contests, performed at local concerts and showcases, and sang for countless school events.
What is your favorite college memory?
The day I set my personal record in the High Jump at 6ft 11 3/4in.
While you were in college you put out your first EP – Back2Love. How did the recording come about?
I took a songwriting class called New Music Singers in high school and fell in love instantly. In college, since I wasn’t studying music it was one of my only artistic outlets. I teamed up with a local producer and recorded my first project in 2010. I also recorded and released an EP during my time here in Boston it’s called EPic: Volume No.1.
Are any of the songs your original work?
All the songs featured on both of my EP’s are original. I take pride in the title “Singer/Songwriter.”
How do you approach songwriting? What is your process? Which comes first for you – the music or the lyrics?
It changes from time to time. If there’s a good beat and the music is speaking to me I can usually get some good ideas out. If not, I try to draw from experiences whether they’re my own or someone else’s. It’s all about the story you tell.
What did you learn from the experience of putting out an EP?
Recording is like an audio tattoo. I can always look back and think about what helped me create that piece of work. What I was going through, the people in my life, and my feelings. Just about anything can be eternalized in music.
Is it your dream to have a recording career?
Yes it is. I believe it has yet to be navigated successfully by anyone, but my dream is to conquer the stage, film, TV and urban music in my career.
Since graduating from college last year, you have been actively pursuing a performing career – and in fact your first big break came right here in Boston – in a production of RAGTIME this past winter at the Strand Theater. Tell us a little bit about that production and your role in it.
Ragtime was a phenomenal experience and I was surrounded by so much talent. The cast, orchestra and production were absolutely stellar. I portrayed Booker T. Washington in the production, which is an incredible honor because I respect the man he was and his hope for the future.
What was your take-away from the experience?
It was my first time performing as a professional, so I used it as an opportunity to watch the more experienced and seasoned actors operate. I learned a lot about myself as a performer and artist from my time with that cast.
Your role in Ragtime led to your current gig in IN THE HEIGHTS. Tell us about the character you play – Benny.
Benny is a young man who grew up in Washington Heights. He gained his street smarts in the barrio and his mind for business being around the likes of Usnavi and his boss, Kevin Rosario. He sees the good in people and knows that no matter what you’ve been through everyone has the potential to “change the world”. That’s what he loves so much about Nina, her character represents all the dreams he has for himself.
Are there any personality traits that you share with your character?
Definitely! I may not have grown up like Benny, but we share minds for growth. I want nothing more for myself than to be well respected and be a pioneer in my field. He’s also a rapper and, as most of the cast knows, I’m known to drop a rhyme or two.
As an actor, what was the key to unlocking Benny for you?
Benny, like most characters, acts mostly on passion whether it be expressions of love or even anger. I had to take things I’m passionate about and use them to drive myself. I like to think of Benny as the driver; I’m merely the car he gets around in.
Does this show have special meaning for you having grown up in NYC yourself?
Yes! Even though I grew up in Queens, this story isn’t unfamiliar to me. I’ve eaten piraguas on hundred-degree days. I’ve been to Bennet Park. Driven over the GWB countless times. I even remember the blackouts! It all brings back the flavors of home.
What do you do for fun when you are not performing?
I like to spend as much time with my cast mates as possible. They’ve become a family to me. I also continue my songwriting and creative writing. Currently I’m enjoying the NBA playoffs after the defeat of my teams, the Chicago Bulls and the OKC Thunder.
What’s next for you after IN THE HEIGHTS closes on the 30th? Will you be heading back to NYC?
Currently, the plan is to return home for a short while. However, I may be returning to the Boston stage very soon so keep an eye out.