Although born in western Mexico, Vasquez's musical journey began at Century High School.

COURTESY PHOTO - Edna VasquezInspired by the likes of folk, rock, pop, mariachi and jazz, singer and songwriter Edna Vasquez has performed countless songs deeply rooted in universal human emotion to inspire and heal audiences.

The Northwest artist with be playing a show at the Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St., in Hillsboro, on Friday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. Vasquez has performed there before, and she's excited to return to wow audiences.

"The last time I was there was two years ago, and after not being there for so long, it felt good to return," she said. "Before that performance, the last time I was there was in 1997."

Vasquez was born in the Mexican state of Colima, and raised in Jalisco. She's spent half of her life immersed in the culture and music of Mexico and Latin America, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Her passion and desire to create and perform her music sprung from her bicultural experience. She became one of the first female mariachi vocalists and vihuela (a guitar-shaped string instrument from 15th and 16th century Spain, Portugal and Italy) players in the Pacific Northwest.

Although she currently resides in Portland, Hillsboro will always have a special place in her heart — it's the city in which she wrote her first song and received her first guitar as a gift when she attended Century High School.

After being overheard singing acapella in the school bathroom, a friend wanted her to sing some songs for her mother, who owned Su Casa Imports at the time.

"I entered a journey I never would've imagined when I sang for her," said Vasquez. "The music found me."

Vasquez began taking a few free lessons, which was how she ended up getting in touch with music, and was invited back to the spot to sing a few songs with a mariachi band. Upon her hiring, she quickly learned around 50 songs. In 2010, she split off with the band to follow her own calling.

"I refused to be treated the way I was being treated, I was the only woman in the group," she said. "There were things that we disagreed on, so I wanted to do my own thing."

The evening will include original compositions that pay homage to her many Latin American influences. Universal in their emotional reach, Vazquez's songs showcase vocal range, which allows her to transition seamlessly between different genres of music — while her creativity in songwriting combines the likes of traditional and modern styles.

"I want to give people inspiration, whoever comes to see me," she said. "When I sing in Spanish, I always like to explain to my audience what I'm singing, so that everyone can fully grasp what it is I'm trying to convey."

She won't be performing alone — also joining her on the stage are Portland pianist, producer and vocalist Gil Assayas on piano and educator and guitarist Bill Marsh, who have been part of her current band for nearly a year now.

"I'm feeling ready to inspire people, and usually crowds are very attentive to what I do," said Vasquez. "I want to give them hope and a peaceful state of mind."

Tickets for the show are $15 in advance and $20 day of show, and are available at

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