Jon Thuerbach, Luke Howell, Brandon Howell and Juan Aguirre, from left, bring their Presidio Boys quartet to the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center Sunday for “A Salute to Country Gospel.”
Singer Juan Aguirre didn't know he could sing until someone told him he could.
The Tucson entertainer was at the University of Arizona at the time, and "being a Hispanic, when you like a girl, you serenade her," he said. As the group he was with gave its mini concert for the girl, one of them said to Aguirre, "Hey, you should take lessons. You have a good voice."
At the time, Aguirre was headed toward a degree in engineering or media arts, but he need one more unit to keep his scholarship, so, he signed up for a generic voice class - no audition necessary.
This would be his first such experience, he said, because he had always been too shy to sing in high school.
"I was hooked," Aguirre said. "My instructor said, 'You have a unique bass voice.'" As his timidity waned, he then took a choir class, again without having to audition, and was immediately promoted to the upper choir. "They needed basses," he said, and he got the offer of another scholarship.
The hook sunk even deeper because of the music the choir sang. "I loved the music - classical choral music, spirituals, a cappella," he said. "It was different. I have always loved all types of good music - no matter the genre. If it's good, I like it. It captured my imagination. And, the fact that I could do it without much training was exciting to me."
Now that he was convinced of his talent, Aguirre took time from the university to study music in Mexico. When he graduated from the UofA, he was hired by the Arizona Opera Company for some small bass roles. He then returned to the university and earned a master's degree in vocal performance and next joined a musical theater group, which gave him opportunities to sing a broader range of genres - country, Broadway, Big Band, Latin and Tango.
Prescott will get the chance to hear the singing voice of the man who didn't believe he had one when Aguirre and his group, the Presidio Boys, go on stage with "A Salute to Country Gospel" at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center. The concert will be a presentation of Robert Shaw's Tucson-based Lonely Street Productions. Tickets, ranging from $13 to $26, are on sale at the Performing Arts Center box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and one hour before show time. Call the box office at 776-2000 or visit www.ycpac.com to get tickets in advance.
When Aguirre learned that Lonely Street Productions was looking for a gospel quartet, he jumped at the chance and formed the Presidio Boys from people he knew. Joining Aguirre in the ensemble are second tenor lead Luke Howell, first tenor Brandon Howell and baritone Jon Thuerbach, who like Aguirre, all have musical theater in their backgrounds.
"It will be a fun program," Aguirre said of Sunday's performance, which will highlight "the greatest hits, classic hits" from the Oak Ridge Boys and George Jones to Kenny Rogers, the Statler Brothers and the Cathedrals.
And, the concert will "Salute Country Gospel" with "joyful gospel," featuring "a country gospel rap that tells the story of Noah's Ark," Aguirre said.
"To me, country music is more a state of mind than sound," he said, acknowledging that country music has changed from its poignant, somber melodies to a more uplifting quality that incorporates some rock.
His show promises "a lot of variety," Aguirre said, but at the same time, "that old type feel" of classic country.