Written by Debralee Santos
Steven Tyler might relish the role of wizened truth-teller.
But long before “American Idol’s” panel of judges ever heard a peep out of Washington Heights’ very own Karen Rodriguez there was Sheila Willard.
“When she opened her mouth, we knew, we just knew. She was going places,” says Willard of Rodriguez, now 21, who recently starred on “Idol’s” tenth season.
Fifteen years ago Rodriguez was but a tiny, big-eyed toddler in the RENA Day Care center on Edgecombe Avenue just off W. 166th Street where Willard serves, then and now, as executive director.
“I can remember how we had her singing at every possible opportunity, at every event we could. She was a wonderful little girl,” said Willard proudly of Rodriguez. Willard knew that Rodriguez’s big voice accented with Peruvian and Dominican notes was headed far.