Richard Rodzinski was raised backstage in opera houses and theaters from Carnegie Hall to La Scala. He attended Oberlin and Columbia Colleges continuing his graduate studies in musicology at Columbia University. He served for six years as artistic administrator at the San Francisco Opera, and subsequently joined the Metropolitan Opera again as artistic administrator to work with James Levine and John Dexter. There, he also helped arrange the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, assembling juries and judging several of the regionals.
He joined the Van Cliburn Foundation as president and executive director in 1986 and ran six editions of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 25 years of the Cliburn Concerts series, produced Emmy and Peabody award winning documentaries for PBS, numerous commercial CDs and DVDs, and pioneered live streaming of entire competitions. Maestro Valery Gergiev invited him to become the General Director of the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition in order to reform and revitalize the competition.
He served on the board of the World Federation of International Music Competitions for 20 years, nine as first vice president, and from which he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He has participated in several juries including the Elena Obraztsova International Vocal Competition in Russia and the Aram Khachaturian Vocal Competition in Armenia.