Dr. Jose Flores is the director of the Corpus Christi Area youth Orchestra. Dr. Flores is a remarkable musician himself and has been an advocate for orchestral music for as long as he can remember. In addition to leading the youth program, he is the Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and has been a professor of violin and viola since 2006, among many other astounding accomplishments.
For the first time in two years, the youth orchestra is reviving its program to bring exceptional music education to Coastal Bend students. We spoke with Dr. Flores to learn more about the program, the value of music education and more.
Kylie Cooper: How is this youth orchestra different from other music programs for youth, in-school programs or otherwise?
Jose Flores: The [program gives] students the opportunity to experience being in a symphony orchestra at a very early stage in their musical career. In the school programs, with very few exceptions, they are restricted to play in either band or string orchestra. The main purpose of the youth orchestra is to combine all instrument families in one ensemble — the string players experience playing with wind, brass and percussion and vice versa.
The program has two string ensembles that provide preparatory training for being in the symphonic group. Another difference is that the membership in the different ensembles are mostly based on the level of expertise of the players and not the age. While it is true that in the advanced group we have older players, we have very young students in the advanced orchestra as well. Another difference is that membership is by audition and attendance, and accountability is honor-based. There are no tests except for auditions for ranking; we call those “chair auditions.” Everyone is responsible for learning the material for the benefit of the ensemble. We don’t give grades like in school programs. The students that enroll are the ones that are truly interested in advancing their knowledge of music.
KC: Why do you think something like the youth orchestra is important to the community?
JF: The nature of this ensemble provides the community a place in which students feel comfortable doing something extra musically with others that think and behave in the same way. Since this is not an elective subject like in school, the orchestra becomes a place where they feel they can give more as musicians and not just get a grade in music class. This creates a different kind of person in the long run. Their behavior will have an impact in the community and in their own families. For musicians that are homeschooled, it is a wonderful opportunity for them to further their musical instruction.
KC: What is your favorite part of working with the younger generation?
JF: The trust students and guardians deposit in the instruction we provide is something we treasure and enjoy. I know for a fact the work we do in the youth orchestra shapes lives. I feel good that I am feeding them with my best knowledge. I work together with Dr. Melissa Melendez and Dr. Carrie Pierce, and they both have the same commitment. They know the importance of what we do. We all agree we have a big responsibility; however, we are not afraid but delighted to provide a high-level musical education to the members of the youth orchestra.
KC: What do you hope the musicians in the youth orchestra take away from their time playing with you?
JF: Love for music and citizenship. They may not know about the citizenship part, but a person that holds himself or herself accountable for the benefit of a common goal without being forced to earn a grade will be an exemplary citizen in their adult life.
KC: What are things you look for in great youth orchestral musicians when you’re conducting?
JF: Commitment to the task. I can do the teaching, but if there is no commitment, I can’t do anything for the student. My best players are not always the most talented but the most committed.
KC: How can the community help to support or get involved with the youth orchestra?
JF: Through the Corpus Christi Symphony organization, we have different levels of donations for community members to get involved. This is a non-profit organization that will always need support from all members of the community. Get in contact with us and express your desire to support us, and we will give you options and opportunities within your possibilities.
KC: Going into the 2022-2023 season, what are you most looking forward to?
JF: We just want re-activate the program after more than two years of inactivity. Depending on the results, expansion of the program is part of future plans.