Luis Fonsi, Carlos Vives and More: You Won't Believe What These Latin Stars Studied In College

Jessica Xie 
Luis Fonsi

In the next several weeks, most students in the U.S. will be returning to school and college. Among them will be thousands of students who dream of pursuing a career in music. But while many Latin stars studied music in college, many took different academic paths, eventually landing in music. From psychology to film to law, what these artists studied may surprise you.

1. Gloria Estefan: The iconic Estefan, one of the very few artists who has topped Billboard charts in both English and Spanish, never seriously considered music as a career until Emilio Estefan, the man who would become her husband, convinced her to join his band as a singer. Gloria Estefan, who describes herself as shy and bookish, actually majored in psychology in college and seriously considered getting her PHD. She also minored in French, and for a while, worked as a translator. “The human mind is the most fascinating thing to me,” she told Billboard. “A lot of my words, and the things I write about, touch upon those things: Who we are emotionally and mentally as human beings, where we go.”

2. René Pérez, Residente: Residente was the idea man behind most of Calle 13’s provocative videos, and just forayed into direction and production with his solo outing, Residente. Wonder why his videos look so gorgeous? His know-how comes from degrees in art and a masters in animation from prestigious Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, Georgia. Residente later took film workshops in Barcelona.

3. Luis Fonsi: Wonder where the current chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100 chart got his velvety vocal chops from? Fonsi studied vocal performance at Florida State University. It was a natural place to go for the Puerto Rican born, Orlando-raised Fonsi, who grew up singing in choruses and competitions but who finessed his technique at the university.

4. Alejandro Fernandez: When he was just five years old, the Mexican singer got  bad case of stage fright next to his famous father Vicente Fernandez. After that experience, singing was the furthest thing from his mind. Fernandez actually studied architecture in college.

5. Ruben Blades: When iconic singer/songwriter Ruben Blades decided to run for president of his native Panama, no one batted an eye. Blades, after all, holds a master’s degree in international law from Harvard University, and the training helped him during his tenure as Panama’s minister of culture. Blades has stayed in touch with his alma mater and in 2009 gave the school an archive of personal papers, rare recordings and memorabilia.

6. Juanes: The Colombian star played in rock bands since his teens. But he studied graphic design in college in Medellín. That background decidedly influences Juanes’ work, including his current “visual” album, Mis planes son amarte.

7. Carlos Vives: Vives’ father was a doctor, and initially, the Colombian star thought about following in his footsteps. But during his first year, he stumbled upon Colombia’s National School of Dramatic Arts and enrolled there instead. “Both my mom and my dad were cool with that,” he laughs. After two years, Vives also enrolled in college and got a degree in advertising. However, he never stopped singing, and performed in the evenings in a local musical hangout, Ramon Antigua, that

8. Juan Luis Guerra: The Dominican troubadour initially studied a more “traditional” career, enrolling as a philosophy major in his native Dominican Republic. After a year, he went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Both paths had results.  His philosophy studies, he told Billboard, helped him develop as a songwriter: “You start flirting with poetry, Neruda, Borges, you start to read, and that all helps tremendously.” In Berklee, Guerra learned how to fuse the traditional rhythms of his country with jazz and pop, creating the signature fusion that defines his music today.

9. Fher Olvera: The lead singer of Mexican rock band Maná studied communications at Universidad del Valle de Atemajac in Mexico. This begins to explain why his songwriting is so eloquent.

10.  Fanny Lu: The Colombian singer has brains to go with her looks. Fanny Lu studied industrial engineering at Colombia’s elite Universidad de Los Andes. “I am very proud to say I’m an engineer,” Fanny Lu said in an interview. “I think I was born with both right and left brain developed: my logical and my creative sides […] I sometimes feel the logical side interferes with the creative side, but engineering has hugely shaped me and allowed me to do incredible things.”