SMART Orchestra Staff
Manuel Arambula has taught string and wind students at the junior high, high school, and university levels. A native of South Texas, Dr. Arambula became interested in music at a young age. He began his piano studies at 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 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 on history, and spending time with his dogs.
Assoc. 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 a 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.
Board of Directors
Jeremy Sustaita has performed as a SMART Orchestra clarinetist since their 9th season and is currently serving his 4th consecutive term as the SMART Orchestra’s board president. He is also the SMART Orchestra’s principal clarinetist. He began playing clarinet in the SMCISD over 26 years ago and studied under Mr. Gordon Sabin in high school and Dr. David Pino at Southwest Texas State University. He has also taught clarinet lessons privately and for private schools for several years. Outside of SMART, Jeremy is a licensed personal lines insurer for one of the top three Insurance companies in the United States and holds 16 state licenses. Aside from performing in several community wind ensembles, he also began composing arrangements for friends, fellow musicians/educators, and his clarinet students as tailored teaching resources. He has even commissioned several works in the last 7 years. 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. Jeremy also handles a lot of social media for SMART and manages the website.
VP Community Relations
Kwin Lara has performed with the SMART Orchestra for 4 seasons and has served as our VP of Community Relations for 2 years. You may see her playing the flute in the orchestra, but she really loves singing and also plays the guitar and piano. (Over 30 years now if you can believe that!) She loves being creative outside of music with my work as an esthetician and as a custom cake baker with unique cupcakes, cake pops, and birthday cakes for all ages. *Shameless plug* Kwintessential Cakes & Spa keeps her creative side flowing outside of music with Smart. Now if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also has 2 beautiful children who have her active with dance and soccer events. Kwin also loves to travel all over the place which includes riding alongside her motorcycle ministry; 3 Angel’s Messengers, where she has been the President of her San Antonio chapter for 4 years. God has definitely been a stronghold in her life and she would love to share personally if anyone would like to know more. Kwin is usually behind the decorations at our performances as well!
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 with an orchestra and her father’s encouragement, she could 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.
DJ Castilleja started with the SMART Orchestra in 2021 as a very talented section leader for our french horn section. He has been playing the french horn since 1992 when he began learning in Middle School. A few words from DJ: “What I love about performing in an orchestra is the multi-faceted art form that it is. First is the art of writing a piece of music that someone dedicated heart and soul to compose, sometimes taking months or years. Then each individual performer gets a piece of the big picture and has to be an artist in their own parts with their own instruments. All the individuals then come together to form one big piece of art in the performance all done in real-time by the leading of a conductor.
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.
Member at Large
Chris Higbie joined the SMART Orchestra in the fall of 2021 and is serving his first term on the board. He began playing trombone in 1995 and as a high school sophomore, he found his calling on the bass trombone. The following fall he earned a position as the principal trombonist and would also serve as the section leader-a position he maintained for 2 more years. He also placed in the All-Region band in HS. His most memorable moment during this time was being invited to travel across Europe as a Texas Lone Star Ambassador of Music. After graduating H.S. he studied music performance at SWTSU, where he had the opportunity to play in many of the school’s performing groups as a freshman, including the orchestra, which was his first love. He also enjoyed performing with the school’s top-tier jazz ensemble, directed by Freddie Mendoza, but not before performing with the Jazz Orchestra where he was featured as a soloist. During his time at SWT, he taught private lessons and toured with the jazz ensemble for recruitment and competitions. He spent a period of time away from music to pursue other interests; however, after losing his mother to cancer in 2013, he rediscovered the healing power of music and returned to playing. Currently, he plays in multiple ensembles in the greater South Austin/Hill Country area while also managing operations for the family business. He also began playing tuba in performing ensembles in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, arranging and composing music, working on his cars, playing disc golf, learning new instruments, practicing, going on road trips, and having fun with friends.
Member at Large
Augustine Chavez (bio coming soon) is serving his first season on the board of directors for the SMART Orchestra.
Season 14 Texas State Interns