Daisy Fernandez is a recipient of this year's Dreaming Scholarship from the Andy Vargas Foundation. —contributed

Daisy Fernandez has loved music since she was a child. She began singing when she was barely 3 years old, encouraged by her musically inclined family. 

But despite this passion, Fernandez had not had much teaching or performance experience.

“I always wanted to take classes and have more professional learning experiences,” she said. “I always wanted to do more.”

Fernandez, who graduated from Watsonville High School in June, is one of three recipients of this year’s Dreaming Scholarship from the Andy Vargas Foundation (AVF). She, along with fellow recipients Antolin Garcia and Jorge Reyes, was awarded the two-year, $2,000 scholarship, which aims to support students entering higher education with the intention to study the arts. 

Watsonville native Andy Vargas is best known as the current lead singer of legendary rock group Santana. Since 2015, AVF has aimed to inspire, educate and mentor underserved youth who strive to enter the music industry. 

“This foundation is something Andy has always wanted to do,” said Dora Soldatenko, a program associate with AVF. “He grew up in Watsonville, so he knew that a lot of teens did not have the funding to study music and art. Andy wanted to help out.”

Every year, students apply for the scholarship by filling out an application and writing a short essay. The AVF board reviews each application before selection. Students are required to have a GPA of 2.0 or above, and an interest in studying the arts. 

“When I started working at AVF, I was so happy to see the effect this scholarship has had on these kids,” Soldatenko said. “A few have come from very poor families. Some mentioned they’d be the first ones in their family to go to college, period. Students will come back, thanking us, saying it was a big help.”

Fernandez’s chance to go further with her music first came in high school, when she began taking music classes through the AVF. She soon learned that her father was a longtime friend of Andy’s father and fellow musician, Javier Vargas. She reached out to Javier directly to sign up.

“The foundation was going to have classes at E.A. Hall,” she said. “But then Covid happened. Thankfully Andy stepped in and did classes over Zoom. Through Covid we only had about 6 or 7 students. Everyone was so dedicated.”

Eventually, she said, the group began meeting in person and even had the chance to perform. 

“I got a chance to sing in public for the first time,” Fernandez said. “It was really fun. I want to thank Andy and Javier for taking their personal time and being so involved with us. They are amazing instructors.”

The Dreaming Scholarship is partially funded by proceeds from AVF’s annual benefit concert, which will be held this year on Nov. 19 at the Fox Theater in Salinas. The concert also supports the organization’s youth music programs, including voice classes and the Youth Mariachi Academy. It will also support AVF’s newest program, the Rising Artist Program, which aims to prepare students for today’s music business and marketing opportunities.

Love is What We Need will feature live musical performances from AVF students and a soon-to-be-announced featured act, along with celebrity guests. 

Tickets and VIP packages will go on sale Thursday at tickets831.com.

Fernandez started her first semester at Cabrillo College this week. She says she is grateful for the opportunity to further her studies.

“I think it’s really important for students to get a good education,” she said. “It’s also important to have a Plan B, regardless of what you want to study … Always leave room for learning and new experiences.”

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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