"For me, opera is everything. It's life," said Valdes. "Through opera, I can communicate, get poetry, history. It's love."
Valdes, whose love for music began at an early age, learned to read music at age 5 from a woman who worked for her family. At age 7, she started piano lessons and joined the choir while attending A.L. Burruss Elementary School.
In high school, Valdes began proving herself as a singer by winning state competitions in voice. "In ninth grade, I realized I had a talent for singing," she said.
"I think (while attending the Governor's Honors Program in 10th grade for voice was) when realized I wanted to do (opera) for the rest of my life," she said.
"(Opera is) communicating with people," the Kennesaw Mountain graduate said. "People really enjoy it."
Valdes, the daughter of Sherrie and William Valdes, has ambitions to be an international star. "I really would like to perform in operas with major symphonies and orchestras. I want to be a performer," she said. "I would like to just sing all over the world and make music with really talented people. That's the best part of about it for me, meeting people and getting to make art with them."
"That's the best part about (singing) to share things with people and through that you create a fellowship with random strangers. That's amazing to me," Valdes said.
Now a junior at GSU, Valdes sees her dream coming true. At age 19, Valdes starred in Bizet's "Carmen" in a principal role of Micaela. "(Performing the role of Micaela) was a huge honor for me because I was only a sophomore," Valdes said of her first opera performance.
Over the summer she studied Italian in an intensive emersion program for six weeks in Perugia, Italy. "You really have to know what you're saying and how to communicate," she said. "It is so important to learn the language."
Following her studies in Perugia, Valdes studied in Venice for a week with famed vocal teacher Sherman Lowe. "I was very happy for that opportunity," the staff singer at All Saint's Episcopal Church in Atlanta said.
"I want to help people be more aware of (opera)," said Valdes. "It's what makes me the very, very happiest. Music has such a profound impact on people."