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'Education Saved My Life': Artists on the Power of School and Education

Enrique Iglesias performs in 2016
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Enrique Iglesias performs at iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina at American Airlines Arena on Nov. 5, 2016 in Miami.

When Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) introduced its RHMC/HACER scholarships in 1985, they were one of the first organizations to talk about the importance of education in the Hispanic community. More than 30 years later, RMHC/HACER has awarded more than $31 million in scholarships to nearly 18,000 students, ranging from $25,000 to $1,000 per year. 

The education push is increasingly echoed by Latin artists who know firsthand that preparedness and perseverance are true keys to success.

Following the announcement of the finalists to the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Awards, Billboard asked Latin stars to reflect on their schooling and on the role education played, and continues to play in their stardom and in young peoples’ lives.

Carlos Vives:

"Education gives you tools for work but it especially gives you discipline, which helps you in everything in life. There’s a Colombian saying: 'Perseverance achieves what happiness can’t.' Sometimes effort is more important. Talent, of course, is key, but so is effort, sacrifice, understanding the dynamics of work in general – the work that’s involved in music. I give thanks every day to my education and to academics."

Vives has degrees in advertising and drama.

Thalía:

"Education and music education in particular are two of the tools that will save my children’s lives. We live in a world that moves at such a fast pace that we can’t wrap our hands around it. I think it’s important that kids have all the tools available to them in terms of education. And musically, it’s a relief. Music is a de-stresser, it keeps them away from problems, gangs, lost time. My children take music lessons. My daughter plays piano and guitar."

Thalia has two children.

Chyno:

"Music is therapy. It’s therapy for life. It eases pain. It brings happiness to the night. Teaching music in schools is indispensable, but we still lag. Music keeps you away from drugs from problems, and that’s so important."

Chyno, formerly of Chino y Nacho, has just launched his solo career.

Becky G:

"I wish I'd developed a love of reading more during my time in school! I'm an artist, constantly striving to tell a story with my music. I'm a songwriter and pull from life experiences and the stories of those around me. I'm also an actress reading, internalizing and portraying the words of others. All of those things are based in writing and I'm sure if I had been exposed to more lit and language classes I would be able to find more inspiration in my life by reading."

Juan Luis Guerra:

“My house in the Dominican Republic was next to Teatro Independencia, where all the big stars of the day performed. That’s why I’ve always said even the avocados sang in my house. I assimilated all that music. The first instrument I asked for was a piano, but I never got one. However, I started to take guitar lessons in the conservatory, and by the time I was 17, I knew I wanted to go and study music outside the country. My parents insisted I study a ‘real’ career I could ‘earn a living’ with. So I enrolled in philosophy, and you read the great poets and it helped my writing enormously. But after one year I couldn't stand it. I said, ‘Mom, I can’t stand it anymore. I want to study music and I want to go to Berklee College of Music.' That’s what I did.”

Guerra says his time at Berklee defined his hit-making sound.

Enrique Iglesias:

“When I first started singing and songwriting I didn’t even think of going to a university that just had to do with music. At the time I was 17,18, I was starting my first year of college and  it wasn’t even on my radar. Now, I’ve worked with a lot of people that have gone to Berklee, including my friend and producer Carlos Paucar.  My first question to Carlos was, was it worth it? And, would you do it all over again? And he said yes, 100%.”

Iglesias funds a scholarship to Berklee College of Music.

Joy, Jesse & Joy:

“Music is such a great weapon. It can open doors and break walls. And if we give it to children when they’re young, they’ll be prepared with the muscle to face anything.” 

Jesse & Joy won the 2017 Grammy award for Best Latin Pop Album. 

Walshy Fire, Major Lazer:

“I really didn’t get musical education. I learned through my mother playing songs, I learned through my community playing songs. I learned at a street level. But you need the interest, the spark.  Once you have the interest, you’ll delve in and learn. Everybody’s life should have some music in it. So I think it’s piquing the interest that matters. That’s the focal point. You never know which of these kids will be the next big thing and you sparked a fire to educate them.” 

Walshy Fire collaborates with Beat Making Lab, an initiative that conducts production residencies for talented youth around the world. 

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