educational journey –live and learn
By Dr. Patsy Torres
As a successful professional recording artist and performer, I probably wouldn’t have thought about going back to school. But 2 reasons would lead me back to the classroom….my childhood dream and God’s plan. First reason, my number one dream all my life, since the age of 5, was to be a medical doctor like my beloved grandfather Dr. Torres. Even at that young age, I witnessed his passion for healing and helping others. I also saw how he was loved and respected. I wanted to be just like him and make a difference. I pursued my dream through high school with my grandfather always cheering me on.
In high school I discovered music as a trumpet player. I originally learned to play trumpet just to get out of class and go to pep rallies and field trips like my sister Cindy who was playing the saxophone. We later started a band called Blue Harmony which became very popular in San Antonio. It was that band that persuaded me to start singing and enabled me to be “discovered” and get my first record deal. I used the income from the band to put myself through college and get my science degree. During that time the city asked me to make appearances at high schools to promote education. That’s when I realized my passion to work with kids and led to the creation of THE POSITIVE FORCE TOUR (PFT INC.), a variety of musical programs that help students all over the country to stay in school and further their education.
But when the music became overwhelming and wasn’t going to
allow me time to continue to medical school, it was my grandfather
who advised me to keep singing. I couldn’t believe it! He
said God had given me a special gift and I needed to use it. He
said I was making a difference working with kids, doing preventative
medicine, and being a healer of the spirit. I'll never forget that
My music career was doing great and PFT INC. was booked solid. In fact, I was performing so much I felt like I was losing my passion and just going through the motions. I prayed. When the University of the Incarnate Word wanted me to perform for the university in trade for semester hours, I knew God wanted me to go back to school…my second reason.
I went back to school slowly taking one class at a time until I earned my Masters Degree in Education. Suddenly my professors were telling me to go on for my doctorate. I never even considered it before! When the university offered me a scholarship to get my doctoral degree, I knew that God was guiding me once again. But my biggest surprise was how people reacted…even my family members. “Why?!” they would ask me. They thought I was wasting time and money because I already had a high degree and a successful career. “A doctorate takes at least 5 years!” they argued. I explained to them that I wasn’t finished learning yet. I had more to learn and better myself. And…God wants me to continue my education! Besides, in 5 years I can just be 5 years older or have a PhD! A few months before graduation, one of my classmates said, “So, what’s it going to feel like when they call you Dr. Torres?” My greatest joy was when I realized that God had made my childhood dream come true. Now I am Dr. Torres!
Once the word got out that I got my PhD, many people assumed that
I was going to quit singing. No way amigos! I released a Christian
CD Saved…At Last and my latest Tejano album “Mi Inspiración”.
I am continuously performing and touring as well as using my degree
to work with community oriented organizations.
Education is a key to success. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. No one can take your education away from you. Education made me see everything differently. It changed me and helped me to understand myself and others. And my education gives me the opportunity to use my music in so many more ways than just entertainment. Music is able to communicate when words fail. We are meant to learn. You’re never too old! When we stop learning, we start dieing. Learning doesn’t have to be college. It can be a trade school or some other kind of skill. Just give your mind and body the chance to learn new things. Learning is NEVER a waste of time! I like the way Gandhi put it, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” So live and learn! God bless you my friends!
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Personal reflection from Patsy Torres
A Childhood Dream
As a child of five, I had already decided that I was going to grow up to be a medical doctor like my grandfather. My grandfather, Dr. William Torres, was the “people’s” doctor. Even at my young age, I could see the admiration and gratitude my grandfather’s patients had for him. He was a healer and he made a difference. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be needed and important. My goals appeared to be set. I was going to be a doctor.
While still in middle school, my little sister took up the saxophone. She sounded terrible at first, but then she started to sound like music. Then she made it into the performing band and got to wear uniforms and get out of class all the time. I wanted to get out of class too! I turned to my grandfather for help and he provided me with a trumpet. I practiced long and hard to catch up with my sister. My efforts paid off with a place in the performing band. But the true influence of my new found ability was about to change the course of my life.
In response to a challenge, I formed a little band to compete in the school talent show. Our success prompted the idea of making a real band and performing for money. Our guitar player was the vocalist. My sister and I were in the horn section. We performed throughout our high school years and made a good allowance. I was a good “trumpet player”. I did not sing.
Finding My Voice
After graduation, I enrolled in San Antonio College. Our band lost some members as they went their separate ways, including my sister. The new members that joined were older and more experienced. They had different ideas for the band and insisted that I sing back-ups. I discovered I had another talent and was soon called upon to sing solo numbers. I was discovered by a Tejano record producer within six months of performing my fist solo song.
I was signed to a recording contract and began releasing records while I was going to college. I ended up forming my own band. But when people would refer to me as a “singer”, I would always respond by saying, “I’m not a singer! I’m a trumpet player who is going to be a doctor!” I maintained this mindset as I struggled to balance my studies with my mounting performance schedules. Although I thoroughly enjoyed performing music, I was determined to have a real career, and like my grandfather, make a difference, be a healer, and work with kids.
As I became better known, I was asked to make appearances at schools and different public and private venues and was signed to different endorsement contracts. Everything seemed to happen so fast. All I wanted to do was make enough money to stay in college. Now I was on magazine covers and winning music awards. People kept calling me a singer! This new occupation was overshadowing my studies and my life long dream. What would my grandfather think?
When I finally earned my associate degree in Science, I agreed to participate with the city’s Stay in School Campaign before pursuing my bachelor’s degree. While visiting the different schools for their career days, I discovered that I could relate to students. As I began to receive numerous invitations to speak, I began to feel a sense of purpose. I felt needed. Most important, I felt I was making a difference in the lives of these students. I began to wonder if this was a message that I was supposed to be working with kids one-on-one and not wasting my time recording music and performing in night clubs. I enrolled at the University of the Incarnate Word to pursue my bachelor’s degree.
I attended a couple of classes at UIW as I maintained my performing schedule and speaking engagements. As I mentally prepared myself to make a transition from performer to student/volunteer, the students at my speaking engagements kept repeating a particular
statement: “We wish we could see you perform with your band. You always play out of town or in clubs that we can’t go in.” It got me thinking. If I can be effective just speaking to kids, how much more impact can I have doing the presentation with my band? The concept was exciting!
All I had to do was match songs to the different subjects in my speech. Oh yes, and convince the band to perform for free! Needless to say, I had a great bunch of guys that consented to give it a try. I proposed it to the school district as a concert/ lecture. Although there were very strict guidelines about school assemblies, the district administrators were enthusiastic and eager to give it a try.
A School Show
The San Antonio Independent School District hosted our first school show at Thomas Jefferson High School (my alma mater). I had no idea how the kids would react. You can imagine my delight (and relief!) and deep satisfaction when the students roared with approval. The students’ responses were more than I had ever expected. I was accustomed to enthusiastic audiences, but this was different. It was more than just a reaction of being entertained. There was a sense of realization, inspiration, and hope in their faces. I could feel their appreciation and approval. After the concert, they rushed the backstage areas to voice their gratitude and to share the effects the concert had on them. I now felt that I had a “reason” to sing.
Many more concerts followed. The requests kept pouring in. Demand for the “free” school show began to cause conflicts with our regular Tejano shows and the recording company’s scheduling. Wear and tear on our equipment, time, and energy also jeopardized the school show. I loved doing the school shows, but the Tejano shows and recordings were my source of income.
It was hard to concentrate on my studies. I found myself losing interest in my classes. I realized that a choice needed to be made.
Once again, I turned to my grandfather. I knew he would set me on the right track. I needed his words of wisdom to remind me of my lifelong goals and commitments. As we sat at his kitchen table, I shared my concern for the route my life had been taking and the anxiety I was feeling over my indecisiveness. What my grandfather said next, was the most profound and defining moment of my life.
I told my grandfather that now that I had gotten my first degree, I could not pursue my next degree and perform at the same time because I couldn’t do justice to either one. It was time I made a choice. He smiled and calmly responded, “Yes, you need to sing.” What! I couldn’t believe what I just heard! He had always instilled the importance of education. My becoming a doctor was his dream too! Then he added, “Your dream was to make a difference, work with children, and be a healer. This is what you are doing with your school shows. You are practicing “preventative” medicine and being a “healer” of the soul. You must use your God given gift. Sing.” I felt a giant weight lift off of me at that moment. Suddenly, my purpose was clear. I would sing.
The Positive Force Tour
As if God was at the wheel, the conflicts with my regular shows and the record company were resolved. The school show was officially named The Positive Force Tour (PFT). The show that originated with a simple message of stay in school and say no to drugs began evolving into a multidimensional theme presentation. Corporate sponsorships from HEB and CPL allowed for the purchase of new equipment, elaborate costumes, and additional singers and dancers. Corporate funding also enabled me to give priority to PFT engagements and productions. Calls came in from out of state. PFT hit the road. PFT was all encompassing and all consuming. Nothing else seemed to matter. We were on a crusade. We were changing the world.
In Loving Memory
Requests and invitations for PFT grew with every year. I was constantly working and never home. We were doing shows all over the country now. The shows were physically and emotionally draining. But it was like a spiritual workout that left you tired, but peaceful and satisfied.
By then, I had traveled over a million miles and touched over a million lives, but lost the one who had so deeply touched me. I lost my grandfather. He passed away while I was performing.
I thank God that he witnessed the success of PFT and that I was able to share my achievements with him. He was so proud. I was so blessed to have his love. I only wish that he could have been here when God, once again, gave me the opportunity to establish a partnership with the University of the Incarnate Word and earn my Master’s degree as well as pursue my doctoral degree. My consolation is that he knows - and is still with me. He continues to be my inspiration.
PFT has been a key portion in my life. I consider myself fortunate and blessed. I have found my purpose in life. Although I never dreamed I would be touring the country singing, speaking, and performing for students, I know this is what God meant for me to do. The kids are the reason I sing.
As a role model, I constantly strive to uphold the highest morals and values. I must set examples for my family, friends, associates, and my audiences of students. I try to be fair, truthful, and unselfish. I try to be the best I can be through education and self-reflection. I think positively and take responsibility for my actions. I treat others as I would like to be treated, showing respect and compassion. My spiritual health is very important to me. My faith is my foundation and strength in all I do. I want to serve my God and my community and make a positive difference in this world.
My goals are not as severe and “saintly” as they may seem. The more you strive to do the right thing, the easier and more naturally it becomes. Just make sure you always do your very best, God will do the rest.
Love, Hope, and Faith,