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Former Miss Fresno County takes stage, inspiring students like herself

By MARISA MATA, Student Writer

Valerie Salcedo grew up in southeast Fresno, unable to take private singing lessons, but always dreamed of being a singer, especially after her first recital with Kings Canyon Middle School’s performing arts class. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else. She thought, “This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”

But singing solo wasn’t Salcedo’s strong suit. She, with instruction from Brigid deJong at Sunnyside High and Fresno State, worked hard to concentrate on her vocal technique, and eventually got her voice to “flourish” during her junior year of college.

Since graduating in 2010, Salcedo has performed with the Fresno Grand Opera, the Fresno Philharmonic and with productions in New York City and the Bay Area. She performs for the military, veterans and at event ceremonies. She most recently performed in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Connecticut.

“I’m doing every bit of what I’ve wanted,” she said. “I want to continue performing and continue to be my best.”

But Salcedo is more than just an accomplished singer. After earning the title of Miss Fresno County in 2011, she started Music for Love, a nonprofit that provides underprivileged youth in the Fresno area the opportunity to take music lessons, or in some cases, experiment with music for the first time.

About 200 children took part in Music for Love’s first event, run by student-volunteers from Fresno State and Fresno City College’s music departments. The organization has hosted performances for children at schools, hospitals and churches since then.

Salcedo’s passion for connecting kids with music has been a defining point of her career, leading her to working with children around the world.

During an audition in New York, Salcedo met a director who worked with a children’s theater in South Korea, who invited her to work there. She’s spent the last five winters working as a director in Korea, helping kids with music, voice, acting and English interpretation. “I like seeing them grow. I like being alongside their parents, seeing them perform,” she said. “I like seeing them take what I’ve taught them to other places.”

Although her work has allowed her to venture out of the city, a privilege many local performers seek out, Salcedo said she is the “complete opposite” and wants to remain connected to her hometown no matter where her career takes her.

She is a director at Fresno’s Children’s Musical Theater, a role similar to her work in Korea. She also does private lessons for kids in the area, from five to 18 years old.

To combine her love of teaching and performing, Salcedo recently began working with Link Up — Carnegie Hall’s program to connect schoolchildren with live music. In Fresno, the program brings in thousands of students over four days to watch and perform with the Fresno Philharmonic. This May, the program is expected to bring over 11,500 students to the Saroyan Theater, and Salcedo will take part in the performances.

Singing with the Philharmonic was a dream of Salcedo’s when she was a child.

“Singing with a live orchestra is every singers dream. I get to sing with a live orchestra, with students. It’s rewarding to sing and play with students, to inspire them. What more could you ask for?”

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