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Latin Grammy winner from Tampa shares how he got to where he is

The teacher, parent, composer and world-renowned flutist says his love for music started right here in Tampa Bay.

TAMPA, Fla. — Taking part in the virtual 2020 Latin Grammys was one thing for a flutist and University of Florida professor. But, winning one took the experience to a whole other level for Dr. José Valentino Ruiz.

Valentino Ruiz won the Latin Grammy with his friend and co-composer Carlos Fernando Lopez for their piece ‘Sacre.’

He says they were not expecting to win since there were some other incredible nominees, but hearing their names called added to the already exciting experience.

Valentino Ruiz said experiencing it virtually was fun. He recalls how the award stage was still set up but there was just one person announcing and the nominees were shown on screens. He says the virtual award show was a demonstration of how people can get creative and be resilient in the most uncertain of times.

“It was really nice sweet moment perhaps to uplift people in their living rooms,” he said.

Valentino Ruiz says his love for music started right here in Tampa. He grew up performing across the Tampa Bay area. He says the area is an intercultural metropolis that allows for collaboration.

“I get more excited about Tampa than most people. I love being a Tampian,” Valentino Ruiz said.

He said Tampa is a place that makes you think broadly and embrace all the different cultures that call the area home, making it a unique community.

This spring, Valentino Ruiz will be honored again, and this time it’ll be at the school he credits with helping make him into who is today.  

Valentino Ruiz got his bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in music from the University of South Florida. He is receiving a USF Outstanding Young Alumni Award and said this accomplishment means a lot to him.

“To me, this award means more than any other accolades. I grew up at USF. It helped me turn into who I am today.”

The person he is today is a world-renowned flutist, composer and teacher.

Not only is he the head of music business and entrepreneurship at the University of Florida, but he has been a teacher in many other roles in his life. He has been producing music since he was 19.

Music, he said, is one of the best ways to communicate and inspire people. He said engaging with music is one way he connects to others. That’s a message he teaches his students and used for inspiration to come up with ‘Sacre.’

Valentino Ruiz said after the intense year 2020 turned out to be, he sat down with fellow composer and friend Carlos Fernando Lopez to piece together something that would represent what was important in the world.

“The piece itself is a reflection of current events that led up to us, the co-composer and I, talking about what is sacred to us,” Valentino Ruiz said.

A few of those things are time, family and relationships.

For more from Valentino Ruiz, you can watch an extended interview on YouTube. Valentino Ruiz talks about growing up in Tampa Bay and gives more details on his Latin Grammy experience. 

You can listen to the award-winning piece here.

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