Lindsay Peyton
West Seattle resident José Iñiguez, an artist equally at home with classical, opera and traditional mariachi music, has developed a unique singing style, in a dramatic tenor tone, and his career is taking off.

An opera singer with a dream

West Seattle resident José Iñiguez combines music styles to build new audiences

By Lindsay Peyton

West Seattle resident José Iñiguez is not the type to back down from a challenge.

In fact, he has been developing the courage to pursue his passion since childhood.

Now, the artist who is equally at home with classical, opera and traditional mariachi music, has developed a unique singing style, in a dramatic tenor tone, and his career is taking off.

He recently performed in the Encanto Holiday Opera, an event he also organized, at the Moore Theatre. And he is currently planning for the year ahead, full of concerts and appearances across the country. He is also working on his first full orchestra album.

Looking back, he said he has come along way – from signing in the apple orchards to major concert halls.

Growing up in the small Washington town of Mattawa, as the son of a farmer with 10 siblings, was difficult at times. He faced discrimination for his ethnicity and his immigrant family’s income. But he also had developed a love of opera, which wasn’t easily accessible or popular among his friends and family.

Iñiguez first discovered the art form while watching television with his father. While flipping through the channels, his father paused for a few minutes of PBS, which was broadcasting a performance of “Les Misérable.”

Iñiguez was instantly hooked. “It was a celebration of expression,” he said.

He had already fallen in love with his father’s favorite music, mariachi bolero, a classical form of the style that predates the introduction of the trumpet.

But opera brought the singer to the forefront – and Iñiguez liked the idea of being the star on stage.

He joined the choir at school and decided to pursue a career in music. His father, however, was not keen on the idea.

“My dad didn’t want me to study music,” Iñiguez said. “He wanted me to do something more practical.”

Still, he enrolled in the music college at Central Washington University. But, worrying that he would disappoint his family, he finished his education with a business management degree from the John Sperling School of Business at the University of Phoenix.

Iñiguez said he learned the foundation of music in school – and then gained a whole new skill set from his business education.

“In the process of working in the corporate world, I learned things that I could apply to creating concerts and events,” he said. “I learned how to get the correct stakeholders and how to discuss costs.”

Four years ago, he set out on his own to create a new niche in music – combining opera arias with mariachi bolero. He held his first concert at a winery in Richland.

“It was a way for me to close the loop on my childhood, seeing the community divided, and create a program to bring people together,” he said. “I put up all the money myself. That was my first risk. And it sold out.”

Iñiguez’s next event was in West Seattle – a concert that also sold out. He then brought the concerts to central and eastern Washington – and added a new element.

His family created an endowment to help the children of migrant workers attend college. Iñiguez wanted his concerts to serve as fundraisers for scholarships.

The first “Encanto” event raised $18,000.

“I’m collaborating with people who want to give others a chance, specifically folks who want to give Latinos a chance,” Iñiguez said. “I’ve heard a lot of nos. What helps is finding someone else who cares about art, who cares about the community.”

And there have been a number of individuals who have supported his effort, including his family. His father has become one of his number one fans.

“My hope is that we’re tearing down stereotypes,” Iñiguez said. “This is my opportunity to do something in a positive way.”

He explained there have been a number of times when others have questioned his education and talent – simply because he is Latino.

“I’m trying to change that,” he said. “At the end of the day, my hope is that the work I do is changing minds. You can have an impact – and you should. Anything is possible if you don’t lose hope.”

Iñiguez makes regular appearances at schools, providing a positive role model for minority students who want to pursue careers in the arts.

He believes that a lot of work still remains to build diverse audiences in the arts – and to highlight more Latino musicians on the stage.

“I’m a person who needs to push the envelope,” he said. “I always want to do something bigger.”

His vocal coach Jerry Halsey, from In Good Voice studio, has been instrumental in helping Iñiguez realize his vision.

Halsey said Iñiguez has a unique talented.

“He has a wonderful voice, and he’s doing wonderful things with it,” Halsey said. “I just made sure he knew he was capable – and he’s turned into a really fine artist. I wanted him to realize he could do this.”

Halsey said Iñiguez has impressed him with his ability to create a new music style and fill the concert halls with individuals eager to see the performances.

“He’s found a niche that needed to be filled,” Halsey said. “What he’s doing is developing an audience of the future. He’s reaching out to people who have never heard either form of music. He’s just going to grow from here – and he can go as far as he wants.”

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