When asked, “tell me about how you got to Michigan,” most students respond with canned or rehearsed answers — “I grew up in this place,” “I wanted to do this thing with my life,” “I always knew I wanted to be a wolverine.” SMTD senior Khris Sanchez isn’t most students.
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He begins by explaining the story of his parents: both immigrants from Peru, his dad took buses, trains, and even walked the distance from Peru to Oakland, Calif. to first arrive in the United States — holding on to the bottom of a train for hundreds of miles as he crossed the U.S. border. Sanchez is quick to bring up his parent’s experiences, and it’s evident that much of his own personal philosophy has been shaped by their sacrifices.
A vocal performance major at the University, Sanchez’ path wasn’t always so clear. While he has held a love of music since preschool, even attending a prestigious program called the Young Musician’s Program in the Bay Area, Sanchez actually started college at the University of California, Irvine as an electrical engineering major, before transferring to the University.
“I felt incomplete because I wasn’t studying music. Electrical engineering just made me sad. It wasn’t my passion,” Sanchez said. “The only reason I did it was to satisfy my dad because he thought I would have a more stable job. But he saw how I was more passionate for music and he said ‘I respect you son, you do that.’”
Halfway through his freshman year, Sanchez had the opportunity to perform in front of one of the renowned SMTD vocal professors. He was then offered a scholarship to the University’s vocal program on the spot.
Once arriving at the University, Sanchez did not waste time becoming involved. Along with his extensive work in SMTD, he also belongs to the Lambda Theta Phi Latin fraternity, sings in the a capella group Kopitonez, is a member of the College Advising Corps through the Center for Educational Outreach, and owns his own photography business.
Sanchez recalls vividly the moment he first learned the power his music held for others: as a first grader performing in a talent competition.
“I go on stage, and when I sang my first note all the way to the end it was quiet for about ten seconds, and I thought ‘Maybe I did a bad job.’ But then everyone stood up and they started clapping so loud.”
With a laugh he recounts another memorable part of the evening: two eighth grade girls approaching him and kissing each of his cheeks. But it’s evident that Sanchez is not in music for the recognition. As a vocal major who specializes in opera, Sanchez readily admits that his medium is not the most popular for someone our age.
He shows the same drive for his operatic future that he does in his other activities. His plan for the future clearly maps out the next decade and a half of his life: hopefully vocal grad school at the University, studying and performing opera in Italy, then the same in Germany, before returning to his homeland of Peru to open a music conservatory for children. This part of the plan was inspired by seeing his mom’s own acts of goodwill in a small Peruvian village, bringing suitcases full of clothing for the children there.
“My mom was so giving, so heartfelt, and I wanted to do that. Instead of doing that through clothes, I wanted to do it through music,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez’ many interests coalesced in the most recent project he spearheaded, a music show called Phenom that took place March 14 in the Mendelssohn Theater. Sanchez has always found vitality in furthering diversity on campus, and this event did that through music, bringing together fifteen multicultural performance groups to promote cultural consciousness as well as raise awareness for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.
Sanchez lost his father to lymphoma this past December, and the support he and his family received after this event prompted him to find his own way to give back. Through chance, he came into contact with a family in Ann Arbor with a child suffering from leukemia, and the proceeds from the event were donated to offset their medical bills.
While it’s obvious that Sanchez has a wide array of talents and causes, one of the most impressive things about him is his constant optimism. He admits to singing on University busses and in exchange for burritos at Panchero’s, literally booming with warmth and passion. This all ties back to his parents’ sacrifices so he could have a better life.
“Family. You can have a lot of friends, but they come and go. But family will be with you even in your hardest moments. And friends who were with me during those times, they are considered family… Without love and support from family, I don’t know how you can go far in life.”