Alejandra Tejeda vividly remembers the feeling of fear when she visited Fresno State for Dog Days New Student Orientation six years ago.
“Growing up, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough academically,” she said. “I’ve never really been what they believe is academically smart. The way I learned was very — more creative learning. That’s why I became a singer.”
But for Tejeda, fear breeds success. In just a few years, she became a lead opera performer, a scholarship recipient and the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree.
“When I came to Fresno State, I felt like I was smart — that I could do something,” she said. “That I was able to become someone in the future.”
Tejeda’s master’s degree is in music with a focus in performance. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in music with a focus on vocal performance.
In her time at Fresno State, Tejeda was the lead performer in “Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena,” Fresno State Opera Theatre’s originally-composed children’s opera. The opera, which was developed with the specific intent of reaching underserved Hispanic children, has been performed at a local, state and national level.
Tejeda credits her success to faculty who saw potential in her and provided opportunities. She said small class sizes in the Music Department allowed for more teacher-student interaction and accommodations for different types of learners.
Most importantly, Tejeda noted that studying what she was passionate about helped her tackle her fears of failing. Embracing her Mexican heritage, Tejeda performed mariachi and used her culminating graduate performance as an opportunity to celebrate classical Spanish music.
“From the moment I became a grad student, I knew that I was going to do a Spanish recital,” she said. “I know this isn’t French, or German or Italian — but Spanish also needs to be recognized as well. Especially in the community that we live in, the majority are Spanish speakers. I want them to connect to the type of music that we learn here, and to show them that this music is beautiful too.”
Six years after she attended Dog Days New Student Orientation, it seems Tejeda’s fear of failing was unfounded. On May 19, Tejeda will walk across the stage at the Save Mart Center to earn her graduate degree. She will also be performing at the 107th University Commencement and the Chicano/Latino Commencement Celebration.
Her advice for incoming students?
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of taking that next step because it’ll be worth it in the end. Although everything might seem a little scary, everything will turn out for good.”