This week, we’re highlighting Jose Valentino Ruiz in our music beyond the classroom series. Not only is Jose one of our authors at F-flat books, he is an incredible musician who wears many hats. University professor, Latin Grammy and Emmy-winning producer and engineer, multi-instrumentalist, dad, husband—these all describe this incredible human being. The first time I met Jose, I was so impressed with his ability to communicate with passion and expertise. If I could bottle his energy, I would! Check out what Jose had to say about his path to where he is today and how he has been shaped by the teachers and others who came before him. Want more Jose? Check out the blog post he did on time management. 

Tell us about what you do. What does your day-to-day work look like? 

Jose at the 2019 Latin Grammy awards

Jose at the 2019 Latin Grammy awards

First of all, thank you tons, Sarah, for considering me to participate in the meaningful discussion. I hope this information can really bless and inspire someone today! To answer you question, I have several hats that I wear. Essentially, there are two full-time gigs that I delightfully engage in:

(1) At the University of Florida, I am as the Head of Music Business & Entrepreneurship, where I am currently devising the curriculum – an innovative and ground-breaking certificate program in the discipline, as well as teaching a course in ‘music production and film scoring’ and a course called ‘strategic entrepreneurship development for the arts.’ I teach on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

(2) Along with my beloved wife, Cortney, and a small cohort of music industry professionals, I serve as as the CEO of our music business, JV Music Enterprise LLC. and work on Tuesdays and Thursdays; sometimes on Sunday evenings too. In our company, we provide industry-standard music production services, consultation services, artist development for a curated clientele, and performance-entertainment services in the context of contemporary instrumental music. Our clients have won some of the highest music industry awards [i.e., Grammy®s and Emmy®s], performed consistency throughout the year, published numerous albums successfully and independently, and are very happy – which is most important!

How did you get into your position? What led you there? 

Here is the short version of the journey. Throughout high school and my graduate studies, I managed a full-time career as a performing artist, music producer and film scorer, and being a full-time student. While I had the right mentors and experiences to fortify my savviness as a music entrepreneur, I began to notice that many of my peers and colleagues lacked this form of industry-savviness and guidance for navigating their career as an independent creative enterprises. This led me to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Music Education degree at the University of South Florida, as I was flustered with so many questions about relevant and preparational curricula aimed at equipping aspiring music professionals to the thrive [not just survive] in a newfangled, vacillating music industry. While pursuing two doctoral degrees at the same time [also a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) in Global Outreach degree], I always maintained an active career as a performing artist and composer for several media production companies based out of New York and Miami.

Hence, my ever-expanding curriculum vitae coupled with the completion of two doctoral degrees allowed me to land a full-time tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Music Business, Production, and Jazz at a very small institution, Lee University, based in Cleveland, TN. After three years of making an impact at that university, it was time for a bigger platform of pedagogical influence at a more globally-minded/culturally-sensitive university that carried a sincere burden for equipping students for the field of creative music entrepreneurship. Hence, the University of Florida opened up an exhilarating position for someone to develop and direct a program pertaining to the disciplines of music business and entrepreneurship . . . and the rest is history . . . or should I say, currently happening as we speak?! Haha.

From a performer-producer standpoint, I keep a hefty itinerary [as I have managed over the years] and am focused on challenging my artistic expression to reach new audiences. Currently, I have several albums in the styles of Christmas music  meditative music, global-fusion jazz, and Latin jazz that will be released this upcoming year and are already complete. In January, I will begin working on an innovative hip-hop album that will feature myself as a lyricist, rapper, and producer while fusing instrumental solos as interludes that reflect the imagery of hope and inspiration exhibited in the lyrics! 

Who were the biggest mentors in your field?

Undoubtedly, I have had many mentors who have guided me in my career. However, my father, Tito Ruiz, and my mother, Dr. Sandra I. Resto-Ruiz, are the greatest shepherds of my life. They both molded me into the loving father, husband, friend, and colleague that I am. Surprisingly, both of them are medical professionals who also happen to be full-time musicians. My father’s ability to juggle his day job as a nurse and night job as a Grammy-nominated music producer and freelance bassist continues to serve as a model and inspiration for me to pursue my deepest passions [music, entrepreneurship, education, mission work], even if they don’t necessarily appear to be related. However, as my mother puts it, the field of medicine focuses on healing the body, while the field of music focuses on healing the soul.

What is the hardest part of your job? 

The hardest parts of the job always seem to be two things related to time: (1) not enough time to get all that I want to accomplish in a day and (2) the time it takes to get certain things approved, whether related to academic culture or the stigmas of booking gigs. However, these things do teach me to be patient. After all, things that are are easily obtainable often don’t carry as much value as incubated projects!

What is the best part of your job?

In no particular order, there are a handful of attributes I absolutely enjoy about the careers I juggle. Connecting with the fans before, during, and after my shows – seeing their enthusiasm, hearing their stories, and witnessing the whirlwind of emotions we (the fans and I) simultaneously experience during music making never gets old. Performing with highly-competent musicians who also happen to be your close friends is always an added joy. The opportunities to meet new people, see the wondrous sights of the world, witness the phenomenon of connectivity and commonality existing within humanity despite location, cultural, and demographic barriers, and the opportunity make music music with people . . . for people . . . these are the greatest parts of my job. Oh yeah, and getting some serious dough ($$$) for doing what you love! Haha.

Pertaining to my academic career, hands down . . . learning with and creating with my students!

Did you have any influential music teachers in your life? Tell us about them. 

Absolutely! Let’s start off with my former flute professor, Dr. Kim McCormick, who taught to me to be fearless in the business and helped me develop my artistic identity, purpose, and role. The legendary flutist, Jim Walker, & the legendary clarinetist-saxophonist-composer, Paquito D’Rivera, mentored me throughout the years in how to be an active [objective] and successful [subjective] music entrepreneur as an instrumentalist-composer. Shout out to my doctoral professors, Drs. C. Victor Fung, David A. Williams, Matthew McCutchen, Clint Randles, and the amazing Jennifer Bugos, who taught me how to be a legitimate scholar, academic leader, and professor in higher music education. The incomparable drummer, Steve Rucker [Head of Drum Set Studies at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami] really expanded my musical mind to be adaptable in multi-musical contexts within the realms of modern-jazz, funk, fusion, and world music. Finally, my colleagues at the University of Florida, Scott Wilson and Kevin Robert Orr, are currently teaching me how to successfully-balance a vibrant career as a performer, producer, and academic at a tier-one research university, given that they both do these these tasks so brilliantly.

A special shoutout to my contemporaries who absolutely inspire me to this very day and whom I have a healthy-professional relationship with: Gina Luciani (credits include: Kanye West, Josh Groban, several Netflix series) and EduardoGualo’ Jaramillo (Emmy® Award Winning Composer and a freak-of-nature guitarist/beatboxer based out of Miami, FL).

What do you wish you had in school that would have better prepared you for what you’re doing now? 

Well, I feel humbled, honored, and privileged, in a sense, because I received what I needed to know from actual industry professionals, whom I had access to. However, considering that many students may/will not be as fortunate, it is my assertion that vital subjects pertaining to (1) high-quality product/service development (i.e., performance, music production and composition, teaching, etc.), (2) music business, communication arts, and entertainment law, and (3) the unraveling of creative-cognitive potential are three subject areas that should be implemented within curricula, especially within music education studies.

What advice would you give to someone trying to “make it” in your field? 

Dare to dream. Dare to chase the dream relentlessly and passionately. Ask all the questions you can. Apply the answers. Don’t be in a rush to make it. The journey is far greater than the destination. Celebrate the little victories and give yourself grace, even if you aren’t witnessing grandiose results right away. Collaborate with others, but remember to always make time to develop your niche, brand, marketing strategy, and audience delivery/engagement. Be grateful. Forgive others. Love God, yourself, and love others unconditionally.

Thank you, Jose! If you want to check out more of Jose’s work, head to his website and grab a copy of his latest album!