Chilean singer/songwriter/arranger Claudia Acuña possesses one of the most beautiful and compelling voices in jazz and creative music. While singing primarily in Spanish, her music crosses language barriers to communicate with power and deep feeling.
Acuña was born in Santiago, Chile on July 31, 1971. When she was quite young, her family moved first to the mining town of Rancagua and then to Concepcion, the site of a rich arts community. A guitar was always around the house, as is the case in most South American homes, but her parents provided limited exposure to music and little encouragement when their daughter expressed an interest in the arts. “They saw music as a hobby, not a career,” she says. Yet once she heard recordings by Violeta Parra and Michael Jackson on the radio, she decided to become a singer. “The family did not own a television, so my imagination became my own TV. I began to fantasize about being in front of an audience, and would search the radio for things that moved me – from Parra and Michael Jackson to Earth, Wind and Fire to Mozart to movie musicals. When I finally heard people like Erroll Garner and Thelonious Monk, I was drawn to the music’s freedom without knowing that what they played was called jazz.”
Teachers and friends who heard Acuña performing in school choirs and folk groups provided early encouragement, and helped her to find performing opportunities that would not antagonize her parents. “I was the only member of a college choir who did not attend the college, for instance, and my parents approved of that because it was at a college. When I became older, and chances to perform with rock or jazz groups arose, I’d start lying about going to a friend’s house. I would also sneak into the conservatory on the way home from high school and try to memorize the lessons. I would sing anything, and after people heard me sitting in and began to hire me, the money I made became the excuse to get work. “