With colleges becoming more and more competitive these days, high school students are under a lot of pressure to perform.
|Frankie Flores performs at the PCYO|
Robinson High School senior Frankie Flores understands that pressure all too well.
As a student in the International Baccalaureate program at Robinson, he’s taking the most rigorous academic courses which require an enormous amount of homework and studying. He also has a part-time job, and he’s the varsity captain of his Tampa Training Center rowing team. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. to train on the Hillsborough River, and then rows in the afternoons as well.
Amidst all his obligations, there’s one activity in Frankie’s busy schedule that’s been both an asset for college applications, and a way to forget about all the pressure.
Music soothes the soul
When Frankie is at the Patel Conservatory, music becomes his main focus, and everything else melts away.
A longtime member of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra, Frankie has taught himself how to tune out the world and tune in to the sounds of his instrument and his fellow ensemble members.
“The musical aspect of my life is a release for me,” said Frankie, who plays the upright bass. “When I’m at practice, I have to clear my mind of everything and just focus on the music. Nothing else in the world really matters.”
“He’s always had music as an outlet,” said Vicki Flores, Frankie’s mother, who believes in sports and music as part of her kids’ well-rounded education.
Frankie naturally took a liking to music on his own. He began with violin in school when he was in first grade. In fourth grade, he asked to play the bass. When his older sister started taking voice lessons, Frankie wanted to do that, too. As he progressed through voice lessons, he went from wanting to sing popular songs on the radio to enjoying Italian opera.
“They both (Frankie and his sister) naturally excelled in music, it’s something that calms their souls,” said Vicki. “It brings some kind of stability. No matter how chaotic things are, when he gets out of a music lesson or orchestra, he never flinches. I’m never pushing him to go.”
In addition to playing with PCYO, Frankie also plays the upright bass with the Patel Conservatory jazz quartet, and last summer, he tried his hand at bass guitar in the pit orchestra for PCYT’s rock musical Normal.
Regardless of the genre, “When I get out of practice, I feel refreshed. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Frankie.
Pushing the envelope
Whether he’s trying opera or learning a new piece for the orchestra, “anything that’s a challenge is fun,” said Frankie.
And he’s had quite a few challenges during his time here at the Conservatory, including conducting, learning original music and learning to improvise.
When he was in the eighth grade, he got an opportunity to be a student conductor, which is why he first came to the Conservatory. Though there wasn’t a conducting class on the schedule, the Conservatory found an instructor to work with him, who developed a conducting curriculum for Frankie. He had the privilege of conducting at the final concert for the orchestra at Williams Middle School, where he was a student at the time.
“He was the first and only student conductor at Williams in a concert, and that’s because of Patel,” said Vicki Flores, Frankie’s mother. “They individualized a program for him...it was very impressive.”
These days, as a member of the advanced PCYO Composer’s Orchestra, he enjoys the challenge of learning original music from conductor Stephen P. Brown.
“I love the fact that our conductor is writing songs we’re playing. It helps you play the music as perfectly as possible,” said Frankie. “It’s different to have the actual composer in front of you and he can tell you exactly what he wants.”
In addition to learning both original and classical music with PCYO, last year, the orchestra collaborated with the Conservatory’s Rock School program for the annual Spotlight Awards show. And with the jazz quartet, Frankie really had to push the envelope and tap into his creative side by learning how to improvise.
“With orchestra, you get a piece of music, read it and play what’s on the sheet. With jazz, it’s more putting your creative mind into it,” he said.
“It’s made me more disciplined. If I go into jazz without practicing, I’d sound terrible...I have to force myself to go through the scales one by one. In the long run, it makes me sound a lot better.”
Besides being a calming and creative outlet, Frankie’s music experiences have given him an edge academically.
Being involved with music helped him learn to focus more when studying, and, it’s been a great addition to his college applications, said Frankie.
“When I started taking up music, it allowed me to focus on one thing while I’m doing it...I know how to focus now because I can zone out and make only that one thing the most important.”
An added bonus that surprised him was the interest he received from colleges during interviews.
“Not a lot of people play upright bass,” said Frankie. At a recent interview for Georgetown University, when the admissions counselor inquired about it, “she was really interested, which was surprising. Just listening to myself, I thought, that sounded impressive.”
He hadn’t realized just how much he’d accomplished, or how special his experiences were, until he had to say it to aloud to someone else.
Frankie has already been accepted to Florida State University, Southern Methodist University, University of Miami, Washington College, Fairfield University, Loyola University in New Orleans and the University of South Florida. He’s also applied at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is his top pick.
No matter where he decides to go, the experiences he’s had at the Conservatory have helped him achieve the discipline, focus and creativity to succeed in any field.
Good luck to Frankie in all his future endeavors!