Lichi Fuentes has been musical director of the La Peña Community Chorus since 1995, and brings to the chorus her rich background in Latin American music and the Nueva Canción of her native Chile. Born in the small town of San Fernando, she grew up in a musical family; her father played the mandolin, her mother the piano and her grandmother the guitar. At the age of six she taught herself to play the guitar.
Lichi attended the University of Chile Music School, in Santiago, where she studied voice, guitar, and music theory. While at the University, Lichi formed two groups: Conjunto Amanda, the first all-women ensemble in Chile, and Conjunto Araucaria. Both these groups performed Nueva Canción, Latin American New Song. This music had its roots in folklore and popular music, but the lyrics dealt with contemporary social issues.
In 1980 Lichi left Chile and moved to Berkeley, California. Almost immediately, she was invited to join Grupo Raiz. Lichi was a member of Grupo Raiz for five years, touring and performing in North and South America, and Europe. During that time, they recorded three albums. After Grupo Raiz, Lichi formed Altazor, an all-women quartet in 1987. As with Grupo Raiz, Altazor toured and performed extensively, recording two albums. Altazor re-formed in 2002 for a series of fund-raising concerts for La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley.
Since Altazor, Lichi has continued to be closely involved with music and social issues. She takes part in a wide variety of activities ranging from South American children's music with Colibri, to Caribbean dance music with Jesus Diaz y su QBA. Lichi is also a public school music teacher and has performed in the San Francisco Symphony's "Adventures In Music" series. In 2003, she recorded her highly regarded CD, "Quien Soy," collaborating with other musicians from the Bay Area.
Jan Thyer has been the assistant conductor of the La Peña Community Chorus since 1988, and has sung in choruses and choirs since she was eight years old. With the Macalester College Concert Choir, she sang at Carnegie Hall in the North American premiere of famed Polish composer Krystof Penderecki's "Passion According to St. Luke," and with the Macalester Alumni Choir and Minnesota Symphony she performed Samuel Barber's "The Lovers," based on the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Jan has played and sung in numerous small groups, including the women’s band "Solid Ground" that performed songs of women and other working people in the Boston area. After moving to California in 1984, she's performed political songs with "Palomitas," "Manantial," and with various ensembles at La Peña Cultural Center.
In addition to directing, she's arranged many songs for the chorus, including Mimi Fariña's version of "Bread and Roses." An accomplished musician, Jan's studied fiddle with Robin Flower, Susie Thompson, and the late Freyda Epstein. In addition to the fiddle, she plays the Andean instruments the quena, cuatro, and tiple.