Rare are people who can say they have managed to become an internationally-acclaimed record producer and performing artist, have earned an EMMY® Award for film scoring, 51 DownBeat® Music Awards, and a couple of GRAMMY® Award Nominations as a multi-instrumentalist/composer/bandleader; currently serve as the Global Ambassador for Trevor James Flutes UK; have led 40 music education-based mission trips around the world; will work as the Head of Music Business & Entrepreneurship at a preeminent research 1 university (UF); hold two doctoral degrees (a Ph.D. in Music Education and a D.Min. in Global Outreach); deliver exhilarating performances on a regular basis in festivals, churches, schools, and universities across the country; tour with the legendary Jim Walker; and, still have time to be a loving husband and father . . . at 31 years old. Ladies and gentlemen, meet José Valentino.
Can you give us 5 career highlights?
Meeting and partnering with the lovely Cathy Miller and the innovative Jean-Paul Wright - two people who have believed and supported my mission to inspire flutists around the world from the very beginning.
Serving as the co-artist, composer, co-producer, and audio engineer for the album, “We Are One: An Exploration of Latin American Music” with my favorite flutist in the world, Maestro Jim Walker . . . and getting to tour with him!
Landing my dream job as Head of Music Business & Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida. I will begin in Fall 2019!
The moment when Paquito D’ Rivera called me to perform with him at Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood.
Every gig that my father, Valentin “Tito” Ruiz, has played with me as either my bassist or percussionist. Bonus highlight: working as a music producer for American Idol and X-Factor.
How about 3 pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?
There are many pivotal moments that helped shape me as an artist. Throughout this glorious unfolding, my pivotal moments have manifested through the unfathomable amount of trials and tribulations experienced by one individual who had a dream to impact listeners around the world and, with faith and family, managed to accomplish every single one. My pivotal moment occurred as I put on the robes of resilience and perseverance to overcome some of the greatest hurdles a musician, a man, an academic, a missionary, a millennial, a Puerto Rican, and a Christian could ever face. My pivotal moment as an artist activated as I was awakened to the realities of this world and its need for faith, hope, and love, and its desire for someone to compose and improvise new melodies and rhythms that postulated these themes using the flute as the vessel of choice. My pivotal moment as an artist blossomed as I married the woman of my dreams and witnessed the birth of my beloved son. The truth is I cannot single down three pivotal moments because every individual and experience (family, friend, mentor, and foe) has been essential to my development and expression as a performing artist.
What do you like best about performing?
The multi-dimensional, intercultural, and spiritually-connected experience that occurs simultaneously while creating music with my friends, family, and audience. When I perform, I feel completely free to be myself. I believe these are the moments when my audience and I can be most honest and non-judgmental. It is a phenomenological platform that allows everyone in the room to let go of their differences for a moment and be united in one accord. I can sense a profound love, compassion, care, and respect for one another when the performance is taking place. No ego. Just sublime fellowship!
It’s been an amazing journey thus far. I’ve managed to produce 60 albums total, of which 16 of those albums are my own or as a co-artist with some of the most ground-breaking musicians I have ever worked alongside. The 44 albums I have produced for, composed for, or audio engineer for have also been equally-thrilling. One of my greatest collaborative highlights was helping the incomparable and beautiful, Viviana Guzman, with her album, “Song of The Whale," which ended up winning a Global® Music Award - Gold Medal! Another highlight was winning a Parents’ Choice Award - Gold Medal with GRAMMY® Award-winning children’s music artist, Mister G's album, "Mundo Verde/Green World!" Currently, I am working on an innovative album, "The Global Funk”, which features my musicianship on multiple instruments and compositions that infuse powerful lyrics sung in Mandarin, Swahili, Spanish, Hindi, and Zulu. Also, something very special (and very different from what I am known for) is going to be released in Summer 2019 in partnership with Jean-Paul Wright and Trevor James Flutes. It will also be made available worldwide for free because the aim of this album is to bless people and help them feel well on a day-to-day basis!
What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?
Good Lord, it is very packed with all sorts of fun things! Travel to Puerto Rico and to The Bahamas for vacation, tons of performances in music festivals around the U.S.A., clinician work at various universities, moving and adjusting to Florida, developing one of the most cutting-edge curricula in music business and entrepreneurship at the University of Florida, making time for my family and playing with my son, practicing my flute with the aim to get better, reading some books, completing album recording projects for various flute artists, completing two empirical research studies, and watching ‘The Flash’ with my breathtakingly beautiful wife!
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
Personal goals that remain constant for me are to continue to refine my ability to be kind, considerate, patient, loving, diligent, reliable, available, friendly, sincere, and genuine with people I come in contact with, regardless of the duration of time I am with them. I also want to continue being the best version of myself for my wife and son - they are everything to me.
My professional goals are to help aspiring performing artists cultivate their creative identities, purposes, and roles, to help diversify their artistic expressions, and to help solidify a legitimate plan for realizing their dreams and goals. I am an artist-educator, and as such, my dreams and goals are truly the dreams and goals of my students and colleagues. So, professionally-speaking, I want to become the best educator, mentor, sensei, and maestro I can be.
What has been your greatest challenge?
It seems like my greatest challenge is forgiving people who have persecuted me or one of my family members/friends. It’s reminding myself that behind every smile, there is someone who is going through a situation, great or small and that the best form of amelioration is demonstrating acts of kindness to counteract the negativity of those exuding it on others. This to me seems to be the biggest challenge. Sometimes it takes me a while to forgive and show love to someone who has wronged me, but I remind myself daily that I am also flawed and will eventually need acts of mercy and grace as well.
Who were your music mentors? and what did you learn from them?
Dr. Kim McCormick, who is a Professor Emeritus of Flute at the University of South Florida and was my flute professor for 21 years. She taught me how to be an expressive communicator of humanity through the power of music.
Valentin “Tito” Ruiz, my father, my best friend, my bassist, my percussionist, my album producer, and my career mentor. He has taught me so many things about vernacular musicianship, producing, improvising, etc. He has taught me to stand up for myself. He has taught me how to thrive in the music business and how to take my music enterprise, JV Music Enterprises LLC. to the next level.
Steve Rucker, Head of Drum Set Studies at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and the Director of the multi-award winning ‘Funk/Fusion Ensemble’, which I was a member for all four semesters during my pursuit of a Master’s degree in Instrumental Performance (Classical and Studio Music/Jazz). Steve taught me ways to be more open and freer as a musician that I cannot describe in mere words. The best way to describe it is to listen to my album in its entirety, "A Traveler's Journey" on iTunes or Spotify and you will hear what I mean. His tutelage is embedded throughout that whole album; it's one of my favorite productions compositionally- and improvisationally-speaking.
Jim Walker, my tremendous inspiration and mentor who has been the quintessential standard of someone who can balance the beautiful pillars of family-life, performance, world-traveling, and pedagogy. He has mentored me for years.
Dr. C. Victor Fung, my main professor during my Ph.D. studies in music education research. A professor who guided me to become the mentor, leader, and scholar I am today in higher education.
Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?
I am an avid gamer who only plays selected video games because it recalls some of the best memories of my adolescence. These games are some of the greatest kid-level games of all time: Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, and Sonic the Hedgehog!
Giovanni Pérez (my music collaborator, a phenomenal flutist and arranger, and my brother-from-another-mother) and I have developed over the years a new language that only he and I can understand. We often speak this language in public settings - including at NFA - to tell each other hilarious things that we want to keep to ourselves. LOL.
I walk around everywhere vocalizing rhythms and air-drumming.
I enjoy studying and imitating accents and personalities.
My favorite movies of all-time is the Narnia Trilogy.
What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?
First, believe in yourself and be yourself. Quit being afraid of being who you were meant to be - ruined for the ordinary . . . you are extraordinary!
Second, stop aiming to be a carbon copy of your predecessor or everyone else for that matter. Do some soul-searching. Establish your identity, then your purpose, and then your role in society. Most people aim to do it in reverse order and remain confused their whole life because of it. Define (1) who you are, (2) what can you do for others, and (3) how will you do it. Remember to add a splash of love and kindness in all of it!
Third, listen more. You have two ears and one mouth, hence, you should engage in active listening more often. Listen to different kinds of music, even music you don’t necessarily have preference or taste for. Listen and immerse yourself in the music of other cultures, not limited to ethnic cultures. Listen to the music of various traditions from around the world. Listen to music that is challenging the status quo. Listen to the music in your mind and take the time to learn how to release it via improvisation and composition. Listen to your mentors. Listen to what your musical inspirations have to say about music and about their lives. Listen to your heart.
Follow me on Instagram at @josevalentinomusic. I’d be happy to chat, give private lessons, etc. Be blessed!