Saturday, February 29, 2020

Veteran and music alumnus Charles Flores sings praises of UTSA education

Veteran and music alumnus Charles Flores sings praises of UTSA education

Charles Flores the choral director at Jack C. Hays High School in Buda.

Nov. 7, 2019 — Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. This national day of observance began in 1934 as Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954, following America’s involvement in World War II and the Korean War, the name was changed to Veterans Day in honor of veterans of all wars. This month the Alumni Spotlight highlights a graduate of UTSA’s Department of Music who also served. Charles Flores served as a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and is currently the choral director at Jack C. Hays High School in Buda. 

What motivated you to join the military?

I wanted to serve my country the way my father, uncle, grandfather and grand uncles did. My father wanted me to join the Air Force, so he took me to a recruiter. I also saw a Navy recruiter. While waiting for my dad to pick me up, the Marine recruiter invited me in and the rest is history! My dad and some of my extended family, especially my Vietnam-era veteran uncle, preferred that I go to college—as I would be the first to get a degree in my family—so I joined the Marine Corps Reserve. I ended up being activated a couple of times—Desert Storm being one of them—but in the end, I am glad I did it. 

Where were some of the places you were stationed?

I was stationed with the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion in San Antonio, just outside Fort Sam Houston. I was at Camp Pendleton, California, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for my training schools and later returned during Operation Desert Storm with the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion. I spent most of my time as a diesel mechanic with headquarters and service company, but during the time we were activated during Desert Storm, I worked as an intelligence analyst. 

Why did you choose to attend UTSA and the music department?

I was at Southwest Texas State University on the tail end of a degree in history when I realized I wanted to be more involved in music. My voice teacher at the time, Marybeth Smith, suggested that I consider UTSA and she put me in touch with Gary Mabry. He would become my voice teacher, conducting professor, mentor and friend. Smith’s husband at the time hired me as a paid singer at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and I transferred to San Antonio to get my degree in music studies, all-level choral. I am so thankful that Marybeth pointed me in this direction. I loved every minute of my time in the music department at UTSA! I learned so much and made friends with whom I still keep in touch. 

What were some of your memorable moments here at the music department?

First, the Lizard Lounge [the third floor area of the Arts Building nearest the practice rooms]. It was a great place to get to know my peers in the music program. Second, becoming a member of Phi Mu Alpha (Nu Eta). I still keep in touch with many of my brothers. Third, receiving a minority travel fellowship through the American Musicological Society. Fourth, my favorite, was when professor John Silantien had to step out and he asked me to take over choir rehearsal! 

In your current position as a high school teacher, what has been your greatest reward?

One of the greatest things I have enjoyed about being a high school choir director is when I see former students not only go on and become music teachers themselves but go into other careers and still manage to keep music a part of their lives as a community choir or band or orchestra member, church musician, professional or a vocational performer, or supporter of live music in their communities. 

Did you have mentors at UTSA? Did you have any particular challenges where you reached out to someone for help?

Gary Mabry, John Silantien and Susan Dill were people with whom I spent the most time and who were there for me in ways that went above and beyond. My second child was born while I was working on my graduate degree and those three kept me going. I grew not only as a teacher but as a person thanks to those three working with me, believing in me and pushing me to do and be better. I am a first-generation graduate with a B.M. and M.M. because of them and the rest of the amazing professors and staff in the music department. Because of them, my dad got to see me walk that stage twice. 

Finally, what is your advice to anyone looking at UTSA’s Department of Music as a possible school choice?

Coming to UTSA was one of the best decisions I made as a student. My only regret is that I did not come here earlier. I received a great education from amazing professors that were competent and caring. I see how much their influence has positively affected me as a teacher and human being. Sometimes, my own students see it as well! I have enjoyed a great career and am by no means done, but I will always remember it started with becoming a Roadrunner! 

Editor’s note: This interview was originally published in Cadenza, the monthly digital magazine produced by UTSA’s Department of Music.

Cynthia Solis

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