By Stephanie Perez ’17

I truly believe that God has worked in mysterious ways in my life—and I can testify that attending La Sierra University was one of them. Coming from an immigrant family, I knew that attending a university was an absolute dream in the “Land of Opportunity.” As a new student, I was excited to open-mindedly explore, intensely study, and passionately cultivate my inspiration. I wanted to pursue something in my life that is meant to help others and create change. During my time at La Sierra, I had the most transformative experience that art can express, met influential mentors who have impacted my life greatly, and was ultimately led to my vocation.

Since I can remember, I have had a love for singing. As a child and teen, I was constantly surrounded by music and enjoyed performing. I would serenade trees in the front yard with my amateur vocals and perform in my tiny living room for anyone who came over. I thought of it as a hobby, and didn’t know that you could have a career in performance. But my life changed through a series of events within the Department of Music that influenced the artist I am today.

I had the privilege to learn from professors such as Dr. Raejin Lee, Professor Javier Gonzalez, Dr. Ariel Quintana, and Dr. Elvin Rodriguez, who shaped me in different ways during my time at La Sierra. These professors became influential in my life for many reasons—but the main one was that they recognized the potential that I had as a student. Before attending La Sierra, I had never formally studied music, and I entered the department lacking many foundational skills as a musician. I knew, however, that I had the eagerness to learn and be moldable.

Dr. Lee was the first voice teacher I ever had, and she introduced me to the power of what the voice can do. She amazed me with opportunities to study language, diction, and various pieces of music, as well as participating in masterclasses, musical productions, recitals, and competitions. Professor Gonzalez was my second voice teacher, and he too provided me with those opportunities. He notably emphasized to me the enjoyment of performing and helped build my self-confidence. He also made me realize that attending La Sierra University was not a coincidence; it was a path God created for me.

Stephanie Perez

As I began to take music more seriously, Dr. Quintana encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree and guided me on how to present myself as an opera singer for professional auditions. His valuable information helped me achieve higher education and heavily influenced me to attend Mannes School of Music in New York, NY. Former Department Chair Dr. Rodriguez taught me the value and impact sharing my ideas could have, how to utilize my voice in countless ways, and how to create a platform as an artist to help communities through music. His encouragement and dedication to helping students move forward is something that I will always cherish and remember. All of these lessons and experiences are crucial during the development of a young musician, and I am so happy that I learned from these mentors. 

Led by these professors, I found that music is a continuous process of discovery, and what develops the artist is how they interpret the discoveries they make. Without the invested guidance and opportunities given me by my teachers, I probably would never have discovered what I could really do. As overwhelmed as I was to study music, I sensed that if my teachers believed in the potential I had as an opera singer, then I should also believe that I could realize that dream. I began to welcome the opportunities, challenges, highs and lows, and the people that I would meet along the way. As difficult as the road has been, God has allowed me to pursue this dream, and I am grateful for the experiences that the music department introduced to me and the discipline that I was able to gain.

I thank La Sierra University for embracing me into their community and for the constant encouragement I received from the faculty as well as my own colleagues. These people have invested their time so that I could recognize my own value, what I have to share with others, and the capability to change the world through music. A La Sierra education provided me with stepping stones to help strengthen my faith and prepare me to embrace stages across the world. I am so blessed and proud to call La Sierra University my home.