Story by Erika Pedroza


Most Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations include the bold colors of papel picado, rice-based dishes and the whirl of folkórico skirts. But Nimitz High School senior Imanol Cornejo set out to share a different part of the culture with his school. 

Thursday evening, the clash of percussion and trill of the saxophone reverberated throughout the cafeteria as Imanol and other members of Fuerzza Norteña performed at the Nimitz Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration. To hear a clip of Fuerza Norteña‘s performance at Nimitz, click here

“When you think of Mexican music, you think of mariachi,” Imanol says. “You don’t really think of norteño. But this is such a fun style of music. I love it, and it’s really cool to get the opportunity to share that with my school. I’m not sure Nimitz has ever had a conjunto norteño perform here before.”

Formed in July, Fuerzza Norteña is a band comprised of six members ranging in age from 11 to 38 years old. The lively, polkalike folk music they play is characterized by the sounds of the accordion, guitar and saxophone. Fuerzza Norteña’s repertoire includes huapangos, norteños and cumbias

“Norteño is a little more hoppy; it makes you move,” he says. “A lot of the songs are love songs. Huapangos and cumbias are just dancing. We have our list of songs and depending on the mood of the people we’ll play a certain list.”

The group practices at least once a week, for two to three hours a night, with gigs on the weekends. They perform at quinceañeras and weddings on Saturdays and church festivals on Sundays. 

“Of course it’s fun,” he says. “Making the day special for someone is what makes me happy. You don’t always get to give the type of present that really impacts someone. The type of music that we play [helps set the tone] for a party. That means a lot. Usually after the event people are like, ‘thank you so much.’ It’s a great feeling getting thanked for something you love.”

Imanol plays the alto sax in the band, but the instrument is only one of five he knows. He can also play the trombone, euphonium, tuba and bass sax, having taught himself by playing along with the Mexican music his family listens to and watching YouTube. 

“My friends would let me borrow their instruments, and I would take them during breaks – Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break – and play all day,” he says. “In sixth grade, when I was learning to play the trombone, every time I listened to Mexican music, I would try to play along, especially the cumbias. It was actually in eighth grade that I started implementing Mexican music with the saxophone, starting off with the songs Mi Gallina, Juana La Cubana and La Cobra by Fito Olivares. Those are the first songs I heard that I immediately and wanted to learn to play.”

Speaking of YouTube, it was also through that avenue that he learned a third language, Portuguese. He hopes to also learn Japanese. He enjoys history and keeping up with his teams – soccer teams Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspurs and the Dallas Cowboys.

He is in the culinary program at Nimitz, and he participates in FCCLA. Following graduation, he plans to attend the University of North Texas to study business administration with a minor in music. 

No matter what he does, music will remain a constant for him.“I feel music impacts you more than anything else,” he says. “The types of music you listen to is the way you’ll have a perspective on life, the way you’ll act. If I ever do get bored with norteño, I would love to play jazz or country.”