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For Symphony Director, Christmas Season Is All About Music

Jose Valencia

This story is the first in our series examining holiday traditions.

If José Valencia's Christmas season were a piece of music, it would likely be marked vivace, or lively and fast.

The Indianapolis-based musician's calendar is practically booked until Christmas Day.

"Basically from the weekend after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, I feel super consumed," he says. "It’s breathless, let’s just say that, and it’s a test of our stamina and endurance."

Valencia, who holds, among other roles, the position of Music Director at the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra, says his packed schedule stems from an inability to say no.

"[I]f somebody asked me to do something, and I look at my calendar and it looks like I’m available to do it, I kinda say, 'Yes.' I just blurt it out, and then I don’t think about how much of my precious little free time that steals away," Valencia says.

Valencia says music was always a Christmas tradition—even when he was growing up in upstate New York.

"My parents had vinyl records of the Boston Pops and of the Robert Shaw Chorale doing all of these fantastic, famous arrangements of Christmas music, and we would cycle them forever and ever and ever," he says.

Without performances of pieces such as Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker", Valencia says his Christmas wouldn't be the same.

"I think I would be very sad if I weren’t playing any music during this period of time," he says. "So I’m grateful for every moment I am playing or conducting—when I have a violin under my chin or a viola under my chin—or when I’m working with an orchestra and presenting some great holiday music. It makes it really special."

And for Valencia, Christmas Day is a day for rest and relaxation.

"I know that’s the first day that I normally know that I don’t have anything to do," he says. "And sometimes I will have maybe a little bit of an exhaustion fever, so my body says, ‘Don’t do anything!’"

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