Ernesto Fernandez performed his final master’s flute recital at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music on a recent Friday evening.
“I’ve been practicing the music for half a year now,” said the Latin jazz flutist.
Darrius Serrant, 22, could tell.
“I can easily tell from listening carefully that he put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this concert. Almost every note I heard him play was absolutely flawless,” Serrant said.
Fernandez, 23, will share his music at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Angelique Euro Café on Miracle Mile, where he will give a free performance for Valentine’s Day.
Fernandez’s journey to become a musician has not been an easy one.
His parents, Clemente Fernandez and Maria Reboredo, were teachers in Cuba and his mother was pursuing a graduate degree in microbiology. At 6, he studied at Guillermo Tomás, a music school in Havana.
But the family’s neighbor recommended that he audition for a prestigious school in the Dominican Republic. So, Fernandez’s parents left behind their careers, friends and family so their son could study in a music academy called Estudio Diná de Educación Musical.
For Fernandez, the toughest moment was leaving behind his grandparents and his brother, who was in military service at the time.
“This was difficult but necessary to overcome,” he said.
In the Dominican Republic school, Fernandez played the recorder, a woodwind instrument, for a year. He wanted to play the piano but his hands were too small so the music director suggested either the violin or flute.
He fell in love with the flute.
“I learned to use it as a form of expression,” he said.
There were limited academic opportunities, however, in the Dominican Republic. The family decided to move to Miami so he could continue pursuing his music career.
“Since my sister had been living here for the past four years, it was easier than the first migration,” said Fernandez, who came to South Florida in 2002.
The family applied and received a visa, sent their belongings in a cargo ship and rented an efficiency off Flagler Street and 60th Avenue.
Fernandez enrolled at South Miami Senior High, graduating number six in his class and winning a scholarship to study music at Florida International University.
“It was tough. I had to learn a new language,” said Fernandez, who learned English during the summer watching TV.
Fernandez is now finishing his master’s degree at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, where he recently garnered a teaching assistant position to pursue a doctorate.
His advice for aspiring musicians: “Work, work, work. You must be willing to sacrifice, embrace failure and seek challenges. Everything else will take care of itself.”