Like other musicians at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Jose Valentino Ruiz had a week packed with rehearsals.
But unlike other performers, Ruiz - who just celebrated his 19th birthday - also had to tackle problems such as expressing (6+5i)(2-3i) in the form a+bi (a question on his algebra quiz).
The Tampa flutist, who takes the stage today at Coachman Park, is a sophomore at the University of South Florida with a double major in business and music studies.
He's an outgoing, crazy kid with a curly mop top who will enter a restaurant swirling like a tornado to make his friends laugh.
He's got a big smile, open arms and enough charm to make you forget you were mad at him for being late.
He talks about music with so much passion that he forgets (or doesn't care) that people are watching him bang out the rhythms in his head on the lunch table at the student union.
You kinda wish you had a younger sister for him to date.
Ruiz adds his own twist to everything. His voice mail message starts off with him beat-boxing and ends with him singing opera.
He uses the flute, the instrument of concertos and marching bands, to create a Puerto Rican-flavored jazz sound.
To the horror of his flute professor at USF, he even twists Mozart.
"I've been trying to convince him that we all should like Mozart," said Kim McCormick, Ruiz's teacher for almost 10 years.
Wearing a T-shirt, baggy jeans and stubble on his chin, Ruiz plays Mozart's Concerto No. 1. He stops at a cadenza, a point where the composer allows the soloist to improvise or create a solo.
McCormick had given Ruiz a prewritten cadenza for this concerto, one that a modern person wrote in the style a composer would have written 200 years ago.
Ruiz gets excited. Improvisation is a key part of his jazz performances.
"I want to do a cadenza, I want to do a cadenza," he said.
It would be a good exercise for him to write a cadenza in Mozart's style, McCormick said.
"This is going to be interesting, because I don't know what I'm going to do." Ruiz said.
He begins to play. His improvised cadenza is all over the place - fast, aggressive, high-pitched, lively.
Then he jams on the flute. It's a jazzy beat-boxy sound.
"So you just did a jazz cadenza for Mozart," McCormick said. "That's way too fancy."
On stage, he can play what he feels, he said. He can be himself.
"Here, you mess up one little thing, and you're done," he said of classical music. He's limited in how he can express himself.
He's still trying to appreciate Mozart.
27th annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday
1 p.m. - Gates open.
2-3:15 - Valerie Gillespie.
3:45-5 - Jose Valentino Ruiz.
5:30-6:45 - Jazz to the Maxx.
7:15-8:45 - John Pizzarelli.
9:15-10:45 - Manhattan Transfer.
10:45 - Fireworks.
12:30 p.m. - Gates open.
1-2:15 - Ruth Eckerd Hall/Clearwater Jazz Holiday Jazz Youth Band.
2:45-4 - Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge.
4:30-5:45 - Don Byron Ivey-Divey Trio with Edward Simon & Billy Hart.
6:15-7:45 - Buckwheat Zydeco.
8:15-9:45 - Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
Organizers say music lovers should keep these things in mind:
- Pets, except registered guide dogs.
- Grills, hibachis or open flames.
- Glass containers or bottles.
- Beer bottles, six-packs or kegs.
- Tents or pup tents.
- Overnight camping.
- Audio recording devices.
- Inline skating or skateboarding.
- Unattended infants or small children.
- Guns, knives or weapons.
- Coolers, outside food or drinks.
- Lawn chairs.
- ID tags for small children.