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Department ofMusic

Aimée Puentes

Aimée Puentes


I come from a musical family where both parents have been music educators and performers. My father is a retired percussionist and music minor in college, with a lovely tenor voice whereas my mother is a retired pianist and choral vocal teacher. From what they say, I was matching pitches before I could speak. As a young child, I began singing with my mother and was soon performing for organizations such as The United Way and singing The National Anthem at The Salinas California Rodeo and Laguna Seca Raceway events. I would attend, by choice, my parents' rehearsals at the local community theatre and knew all of the lyrics from memory by the time they opened the show. I would often get in trouble for singing at the dinner table instead of eating my dinner. Music and music lessons were a part of my life.

On many occasions, I would ride with my Dad to Fresno, CA, to visit my grandmother and we would sing songs like "Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah" or scat practically the whole trip there and back. Soon after, I had my first real role (at age 11) as Molly in The Western Stage’s production of Annie. While still singing on a volunteer basis, I would occasionally sing at Saint Joseph’s Church in Spreckels, California for special services. When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the music staff as a cantor, with my mom on piano and organ and my younger brother on upright bass and vocals. This was my first gig as a paid singer.

In high school, my electives were, of course, choir with my mom as the vocal instructor and a class that focused on performing and visual arts. The San Francisco Opera Outreach came to our school to perform excerpts from La Boheme. After seeing the production (my first opera), I prepared and sang Musetta's aria with the Outreach singers, and was hooked. I never would have imagined that someday I would sing as a professional with the San Francisco Opera!

In my mom’s music class, we learned to sing in different languages which I found fascinating. To be able to sing such beautiful music, in languages other than my first language, seemed intriguing and challenging. I also thought it was pretty amazing that singers could fill a huge theater without the help of a microphone. From that day, I knew I wanted to be an opera singer.

Mom was always finding fun and interesting techniques and music for us. She met Byron McGilvray, a choral director from San Francisco State University, and asked him to visit our class to do a workshop before we went to a Central Coast Section music competition. My mom asked this director to hear me and he suggested I come to SFSU to study with a colleague of his, Kathryn Harvey. I ended up earning my BM from SFSU in vocal performance and studied with Ms. Harvey for over 18 years.