News Column

Ontario teen competes in Spanish kids version of 'The Voice'

July 9, 2013

YellowBrix

July 09--ONTARIO -- To his former music teacher, Edgar Chavez is known as his "little giant."

The 14-year-old may be smaller than most of his peers but he has a powerful voice, said Eufemio Escalante, music director for Vina Danks Middle School. "To me, some people have it and some people don't. For him, it's natural to just sing," Escalante said.

Edgar recently beat out thousands of youths throughout the United States to earn one of the 54 coveted spots on Telemundo's "La Voz Kids," Mexico's kids version of the popular singing competition show "The Voice."

He was eliminated in the second round but not before earning the praise of the judges, which includes Mexican pop artist Paulina Rubio. The episode aired on June 16.

And while it was an emotional farewell for the Ontario teen who will be a freshman at Chaffey High School this fall, he said he remains undeterred.

"I'm just going to keep on going with my dream of becoming a professional singer," he said. "This experience has taught me you should never give up on your dream, no matter what gets in the way."

In March, Edgar and his family traveled to Miami, for a week as part of auditions, taping for the show.

He and his family were flown to Florida for about a week for the second round of the competition. Edgar and his brother, Bryan, made it through the first round of auditions of "La Voz Kids" in a Los Angeles studio. The duo were among 3,000 people that auditioned earlier this year in various states, including Texas and Illinois.

Edgar and his family went back shortly after to film the show but his brother was among the 120 contestants to be eliminated. Just like the U.S. version, Edgar had to preform a song they selected in Spanish as the judges listened with their chairs turned to the back. The Ontario teen said he was getting nervous when he was halfway through his songs and none of the judges had turned their chairs.

Just as he was hitting a high note, judge Robert Tapia turned his chair.

For Edgar, that moment was a big relief to be among the 54 to advance.

"I knew when he turned his chair, I knew was in the show no matter what," he said.

He made it to the next round. While he was there he had to rehearse every day. When it came time for the second round, the competition actually pitted him against Brian Torres a fellow Ontarian. The two didn't meet until they were at the competition but Edgar says they have remained in touch.

"At first it was hard but he's a good singer and he's become a good friend," he said.

The two have even hung out at the mall, where both have recognized. It's not odd for Edgar now to go to the mall or the grocery store and be stopped by someone asking for a photo or an autograph. Many fans also ask him what it was like to compete in the show.

It has also led to a slew of new bookings for events and parties.

Prior to leaving on his trip, Edgar, his family and Escalante recounted his journey to get to this moment. His parents, Cecelia Salas and Jose Chavez, said they knew early that their son loved performing.

"He's a natural performer. It's his passion and what he was meant to do," his mother said.

His emotion and passion have been the keys to his success, she added.

"There have been times when I can see him connect with his audience, some who have cried, and I can tell it just makes him sing with even more passion," Salas said, adding her son has had to turn away to keep from crying.

One particular moment that stands out to the family was when Edgar, who was just 5 at the time, had been persistent about singing at a family party. The problem was, Salas said, everyone was dancing.

Salas said her son broke down in tears and was eventually brought onto the stage when his uncle stopped the music so he could perform.

"I was crying the whole night because they didn't let me sing and I told them if they didn't let me sing I wasn't going to sing again in my entire life and so they had to let me sing," Edgar said.

Recognizing their son's talent, Edgar began singing Norteno, a genre of Mexican music, and banda, a brass-based form of traditional music at parties and events on the weekends when we was just 10 years old.

He then started singing with the Ontario-Montclair School District Mariachi in sixth grade while he attended Lincoln Elementary, where he first met Escalante, and the two formed a bond.

In the seventh grade, he joined the Vina Danks Band, where he received his formal music training, Escalante said. He has learned to play the trumpet and has even won the Lou Dokken Scholarship.

In recent years he has been on "Jose Luis Sin Censura," a talk show on Channel 62 and Estrella TV's talent show, "Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento."

While his family has always enjoyed listening to mariachi, performing it was another thing.

"I didn't really like singing mariachi," said Edgar, who aspires to learn how to play the instruments found in a mariachi band. In fact, he incorporates a large portion of mariachi songs into his performances.

With the guidance of Escalante and another musician, who has been in a mariachi group for more than 40 years, Edgar began to not only learn how to sing but perform.

"What we try to do is not only show them not the fundamentals in the music but the passion and the tradition," Escalante said.

But he said the parents have been instrumental in fostering Edgar's singing career. When his teacher first began sending home music, an effort to have him practice, he would come back almost immediately having learned the song, and sometimes there would be a recording to go along with it.

"They were his first teachers," he said.

Every Saturday for the past four years, Edgar's parents drive him to different singing engagements around Southern California, as far north as Bakersfield and to San Diego to the south.

With that kind of support, it is no surprise that music is also very much part of Edgar's daily routine at home. The family has a karaoke machine in the garage, and Edgar can be found there on most afternoons and evenings, only after he has had dinner and finished his homework.

"It's all the time. I eat and I start singing and then I do my homework and then I start singing. That's pretty much my whole day," he said back in March when he was still at Vina Danks.

And his classmates are well aware of his talents.

"At a recent school assembly he sang "La Paloma."

"The girls went crazy so I told him he's our little Justin Bieber," Escalante said.

On the stage, Edgar is unabashed and commands a presence but away from the lights he is more reserved and unassuming. In fact, Escalante said he didn't even know his former student had auditioned, let alone make it,to the second round of "La Voz Kids."

Escalante said his former student came in one day and just mentioned the auditions in passing. It took him a couple of minutes until he realized the importance of the feat.

"That's part of being a musician," he said. "They appear to be a show-off on the stage and off the stage we are all really quiet."

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(c)2013 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)

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