Catholic singer recalls how winning battle with shyness, relying on faith brought success 

Guelmis Tavárez got his start in the world of Catholic music with a prayer group in Santiago, Dominican Republic, when he was 13 years old. (OSV News photo/courtesy of Guelmis Tavárez)

by Marietha Góngora V.

(OSV News) — Guelmis Tavárez has a successful career in the Catholic music industry, but that success didn’t come without a fight against the extreme shyness he suffered from a young age and his reliance on his faith to evolve into the musical artist he is today.

Born in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Tavárez, now 39, grew up in a family where music was always present, mainly thanks to his grandmother. He remembers when he was in elementary school, and one of his teachers was forming a student choir.

“Although I had the desire to sing, shyness invaded me and prevented me from trying to do it, but when this teacher gave me the audition, he told me, ‘You are going to sing.’ With him, I sang in front of people for the first time. It was the song ‘Un Millón de Amigos’ (‘A Million Friends’),” he said.

He also remembers in a special way a friend nicknamed “Alcántara,” who encouraged him to feel confident in his singing. “That was like in fourth grade, he was behind me and while I sang, he would jump and clap. He was like a fan and that helped me a lot; it’s something I will never forget,” Tavárez told OSV News. 

When he was 13, Tavárez participated and served in a prayer group called “Paz y Bien” (Peace and Goodness) that met every Tuesday. This group taught him to have confidence in himself and in the talent God gave him.

“A friend taught me how to play the basic merengue rhythms on the tambora and then they put me in the choir to play the tambora,” he said. “That was my favorite day because I was going to serve the Lord” through music.

After rehearsing by himself over and over again, he decided it was time to sing with the group. “I began to come out of my shell, failing and facing fear until a young man in the middle of the assembly said one day, ‘That boy can sing, let him sing ‘Saliendo del Pretorio’ because every time he sings, it moves my heart and something happens that I can’t explain,'” Tavárez recalled. The song is about Jesus’ road to Calvary.

“That day, I said to the Lord, ‘If singing touches anyone’s heart, then I’m going to do it,'” he said.

In his 20s, Tavárez came to the United States and began to hone his gift. From time to time in Santo Domingo, he would write some melodies, but in the U.S., he wrote one of the best-known songs of his ministry: “Amarte con Locura,” a song about love, dedication and reverence for God.

“When I hummed it and put the music and lyrics to it, people didn’t believe it was my song; they thought it already existed, and I told them, ‘No, no, I’m doing this song,'” recalled Tavárez, who was inspired to compose it one day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. 

“When I saw that the Lord was already giving me melodies and lyrics, I said, ‘It’s not for me to keep them,'” he thought. “Then I said, ‘Here’s something to which you have to pay close attention.'”

He released the song “Ahí estás Tú” (“You Are There”), when he was 21, with the clear idea that his vocation and singing would always be for the Lord. Even though he received proposals to sing secular music, he has remained committed to performing Christian songs. 

“I was always very clear that this gift the Lord gave me was his. I have always been here to serve him and his church,” said Tavárez.

For a while, Tavárez returned to his native Dominican Republic and started a duo with a friend. Called Jóvenes de Fuego, the project became so successful that the group grew to include 16 young artists, including musicians and singers. 

“After I married my wife, Huellas de Fuego (Footprints of Fire) was born, a duo we started in 2014 with her,” said Tavárez. His wife, Lina Tavárez, has been — besides his life partner and mother of his five children — his best artistic complement. 

They have been serving with Huellas de Fuego since then and made a production called “Dios es Grande” (“God Is Great”).

“Dios es Grande” included songs such as “En Tu Presencia” (“In Your Presence”), “Mírame” (“Look at Me”), “No Debes Temer” (“Don’t Be Afraid”), and “Me Amas de Verdad” (“You Truly Love Me”), among many others. They have also produced singles such as “Caminaré” (“I Will Walk”), released three years ago. 

Lina and Guelmis are currently working on the final details of their next production.

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