The SMART Orchestra (Short for San Marcos Artists’ Retention and Training Orchestra) is dedicated to the enhanced appreciation and understanding of orchestral music in San Marcos and its surrounding communities. Since our founding in 2009, the orchestra was built upon the idea that we need to retain the talent we have and we need to train them to become better musicians.

We provide musicians to perform and learn in a full symphony orchestra as well as through

SMART is designed to be an outlet for every individual interested in the study and performance of music and we encourage participants to contribute their time, talent, and skill to better serve the orchestra’s mission. 

Whether you are a member of our audience, performing, or serving on the SMART Board, your enthusiasm and curiosity are welcome in an environment of acceptance and growth.

We are always looking for unique ideas for collaboration within the community. If you are hosting an event & would like the orchestra to come play, let us know. We, unfortunately, can't play every event we're asked to do, but we love playing local & supporting our local community events.

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Artistic Directors Manuel Arambula has taught string and wind students at the junior high, high school and university level. A native of South Texas, Dr. Arambula became interested in music at a young age. He began his piano studies at the age of 6, and affiliated himself at the secondary levels in the orchestra and band where he earned many distinctions as a performer. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from McAllen High School, Dr. Arambula knew that music was his calling. His professional trajectory has taken him across the states of Texas and California. He has taught both band and orchestra, including a teaching assistantship at Texas Tech University. A supporter of fine arts, Dr. Arambula has been involved with community musical organizations in the South Texas and Lubbock areas. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education (Summa Cum Laude) and a Master of Music in Instrumental Performance from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a Master of Music in instrumental conducting and a Doctorate in Musical Arts in instrumental conducting from Texas Tech University. Highly grateful for his journey, Dr. Arambula is thankful for the numerous mentors and students who have developed his love for music. When not engaged in his musical interests, Dr. Arambula is an avid collector of classical historical recordings, reading books in history and spending time with his dogs.
Associate Artistic Director Charmaine Flake started playing piano at age 5, and spent most of her childhood in Wichita Falls, TX, where she studied piano under the tutelage of Dr. Ruth Morrow. Charmaine continued taking from Dr. Morrow while an undergraduate at Midwestern State University and also studied voice from Dr. James Schuppener for 2 years. At the age of 20, she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Music in Keyboard Performance. While in Wichita Falls, Charmaine was actively involved in the community. She was a pianist and solo vocalist at Liberty Baptist Church for 7 years, performed in different musicals such as Oklahoma! and Two from Galilee with the Wichita Theatre, was the music leader for Vacation Bible School at Emmanuel Baptist Church for 2 years, and participated in music services at local rest homes. She started teaching piano at age 16, and maintained her students, as well as taught at the First Baptist Church Academy of Fine Arts, until she and her husband moved to the Austin area in 2010. Since then, Charmaine has been accompanying and coaching vocal students at Texas State University and the surrounding areas. She became a piano and voice instructor at Lone Star School of Music in Austin in 2012 and taught there for over 2 years until moving to Curious Chords Music Studio in Kyle in 2015 to be closer to home. Along with teaching, Charmaine has had the opportunity to be rehearsal pianist and music director at local theatres, including Austin Playhouse and ZACH Theatre. She was also an active member and pianist for the Austin-based organization One Ounce Opera from 2013-2017. Two kids later, Charmaine now stays at home with her boys, Lochland and Josiah. She currently teaches piano from her home, plays for the Lehman High School choirs and band students, and continues to take on side gigs as a freelance musician.


President Jeremy Sustaita has performed as a SMART Orchestra clarinetist since Season 9 and is currently serving his 4th consecutive season as the SMART Orchestra’s board president. He began playing clarinet in the SMCISD over 26 years ago and although he switched from a music education major to communication studies major in 2006, he plans on returning to school in the spring to continue to further his music education and plans to pursue orchestral conducting—thanks to his experience with SMART. Jeremy also plays soprano, alto, tenor and saxophone, and is currently a beginner flute student. He has also taught clarinet lessons privately for several years. Outside of SMART, Jeremy is a licensed personal lines insurer, and a senior stylist. Aside from performing in several community wind ensembles, he also began composing arrangements for friends and fellow musicians/educators, as well as clarinet for teaching resources for his students, over 7 years ago and has commissioned several works in that time frame. In addition to composing arrangements for chamber ensembles in many previous SMART Sessions Recitals, Jeremy also recently wrote his first complete orchestral arrangement—Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, which was debuted by the SMART Orchestra in our season 11 Pops Concert: A Tribute to Motown.

Vice President of Community Relations Kwin Lara bio coming soon
Vice President of Membership Kathy Melde has been with the SMART Orchestra for 3 seasons as a violist. She joined in Fall in 2018 after meeting Chris Hanson, the founder, who encouraged her to join. She enjoys the community of musicians and the impact on the San Marcos Community.

Kathy started her journey with the viola in 4th grade and played through 10th grade. She would periodically pick the viola up throughout her adult life with her parents and husband’s encouragement. In 2017, 1 year prior to joining the SMART orchestra she picked the viola up yet again. As VP of Membership her goal is to help every orchestra member to feel connected to the group and have an enjoyable experience playing in SMART.


Shirley Gauthier bio coming soon

Treasurer Julian Jones bio coming soon
Member-at-Large Cathy Stoughton is currently in her third season with the SMART orchestra. She is a native of San Marcos, TX, and a 1993 graduate of SMHS, where she served as the principal trumpet player and as the trumpet section leader from 1990-1993. She also placed as a member of the All-Region band where she had the opportunity to represent SMHS. After graduation and upon receipt of softball and music scholarships to Texas Lutheran University she continued her education and is about to begin her 23rd year of teaching, 19 of which have been at SMHS, where she is the head softball coach and teaches geometry. She recently began her pursuit of a master’s degree in mathematics. Cathy is excited to have this opportunity to pursue her passion for music with such an amazing organization and the wonderful people of which it is comprised. She is married to Craig, and they have two children, Cailyn & Cayden.

Kayla McGuire joined SMART Orchestra for their 10th Season in the fall of 2018. She began playing violin in her hometown Amarillo, TX, in her public school orchestra in the fourth grade. She continued her music education through Amarillo's public school system until her family moved to the Rio Grande Valley. Thanks to her amazing grandparents who paid tuition so she could attend a school out of her district which had an orchestra and thanks to her father's encouragement, she was able to continue playing in her public school while living in the Valley. Kayla then attended Texas State University where she took violin lessons for the first time in her life. At Texas State she was able to explore several different music genres and ensembles including chamber, mariachi, improvisation, and musical theater. Life took Kayla in a direction away from music for about 9 years until she joined the SMART Orchestra. Now, she is excited about making music with other musicians and getting reacquainted with her instrument as an adult learner who is navigating her own music education through trial-and-error and a healthy dose of YouTube tutorials. She believes in the strength of community and the power of music to speak to people of all backgrounds and is ready to help reinforce and invigorate SMART Orchestra's community ties.