Young Opera Singer Uses Talents to Continue Family’s Entrepreneurial Legacy 

Photo by Wezz De La Rosa

By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

When your godmother is a pioneer Latina entrepreneur who opened the first Mexican cakery in Des Moines, your parents own and manage rental property, your dad has a heating and cooling shop, and your little cousin started a successful Mexican candy business, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. That’s exactly what happened to Sandra Paz Garcia, who launched Sandy Sings Studios in September of 2023. 

Paz Garcia, a Drake student who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance in May, had a lot of ideas for a business. “I wanted so badly to do something I could own.” Her ideas ranged from doing lashes to selling sushi, but nothing felt right. She began seeking out financial advice by successful businesswomen. In one of the videos she watched the speaker suggesting looking at your current skill set; what you’re already good at and proud of. “I took my little notebook and made a list of what I’m really good at, and what I’m really bad at. Things started coming to me.” Music ran supreme and with good reason. 


Paz Garcia has been singing since she started talking, playing piano since middle school, in show choir throughout high school, and has placed top in the state for her singing at NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competitions since her junior year. Her resume got more impressive as a college student where she has performed in three Opera productions, was selected to perform for a month in Vicenza, Italy for a role that included singing one of the most vocally challenging Opera songs with a full orchestra. A year later she traveled to Ireland to perform and workshop under an Irish composer, and was hired by the Des Moines Opera to perform at the Civic Center. She did all this while taking voice lessons, participating in master classes with composers from Minneapolis and New York Opera houses, and being part of Drake’s choir. “I decided to start with voice lessons, but there are so many already. But, then it hit me, all the ones in Des Moines are white. There’s no way that the Latino community doesn’t want to learn to sing or play the piano. That’s what I can bring; I’m bilingual.” She excitedly created a poster of her services, making sure to put a note that said hablo español, but her nerves got the best of her. “I went to brunch with a friend. I still hadn’t posted the flyer. She reminded me that I have a supportive community and I made a deal with her that encouraged me to do it. I thought I was scared of rejection, but I was really more afraid of regret so I posted it that afternoon.” She was surprised to get four students within the first twenty-four hours. “Each day one to two people reached out to me and by the end of the week I had six students signed up, plus people were reposting and sharing my poster.” 

Paz Garcia currently has thirteen students who range from seven years old to over a decade older than her. Only two of her students are non-Latino. The rest are interested in learning to perform in English and Spanish. Paz Garcia loves when her students get excited about their lessons and push themselves to try something new. She credits her Vocal Pedagogy class with teaching her how the body works to help create sounds. The class required her to reach out to a local school and offer a free vocal lesson. She had never taught before but she felt ambitious so she offered three classes instead of one. The opening exercise she created for that class assignment is still how she begins her voice lessons today. “That class planted the seed and I noticed how many people in the community didn’t have the access and opportunity to learn music like I did.” 

Once she had her business idea and some practice under her belt, the challenge of finding a location began. She looked at churches and schools, but none of those places spoke to her vision of what she wanted for her students. Her dad suggested she ask her voice teacher for ideas, who graciously offered Paz Garcia to use her studio. “It’s really nice, with big windows and a grand piano. There’s pictures everywhere, and some of them are of me from past performances. It was perfect because it’s a sacred space for me.” She loves sharing that with her students, seeing their faces light up when they walk in for the first time, realizing that they are getting a high-quality experience in a safe, welcoming, and inspiring setting.


While her credentials as a performer are impressive, Paz Garcia didn’t know where her love of singing would take her. “Telling my parents I wanted to go into music was so scary.” As the daughter of immigrants who worked and sacrificed to give her so many opportunities they didn’t have, Paz Garcia wants to make them proud. “They’re my role models. Almost everyone I’ve looked up to in my life is a business owner. I want to succeed with the tools they provided.” Raised by entrepreneurs, Paz Garcia saw how much work it takes to start a business. She didn’t take that for granted. She often turns to her family for advice. “This isn’t easy to do on your own, you have to ask for help. Everyone has different things they can contribute. Take what you need, leave what you don’t” That seems to be working for Paz Garcia, who launched her business a month after turning twenty-one and feels like there is still so much to learn. “My only limitations to what I want to do are the ones I put on myself. I have to trust myself to do what I’m good at.”

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point, and it’s just the beginning for Paz Garcia. She is currently auditioning for graduate programs to continue her vocal studies, but she won’t be leaving her business any time soon. “I would love to expand and get more students. One day I want a building where I can give lessons, have concerts, solo performances, and recitals in English and Spanish.” With her parents in real estate, Paz Garcia has a built-in partnership to make that happen and continue her family’s entrepreneurial legacy.    


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