Award-Nominated Musician Hopes to Give Back to Her Community

WNMU student Keana Huerta is balancing academics with her music career. She is seen here performing on campus at last summer's Welcome Back Bash, August 19, 2023.

© Western New Mexico University

Music and nursing may seem like very different disciplines to most people, but for WNMU student and Hurley native Keana Huerta, they are very much entwined.

Her decision to pursue a career in nursing was influenced by her family’s experience. “When my grandmother was sick in the hospital,” said Huerta, “I came to see her, and I sang her a song. [Music] brings light to a part of someone’s health journey that they otherwise might not have had.”

Music therapy has been part of healthcare for a long time, said Huerta. “When people are at a very vulnerable time, sometimes they just need that light,” she said, “and for me as for many other people, music is just that.”

Music is such an important part of Huerta’s life that she has been working hard to develop time management strategies to juggle being both a full-time college student and a professional musician. “With school and with music, I really had to learn how to balance stuff,” she said.

But finding time for both is not new for Huerta. Growing up, she regularly sang the national anthem at sporting events and other community events, and she has travelled to perform for the Albuquerque Isotopes and the New Mexico United.

“I have been singing as long as I can remember,” said Huerta, “Slowly it grew into something more. I spread my wings a bit more.”

In recent years, that spread has widened to include performing as the lead vocalist for Siempre, a southwest New Mexico band that performs a wide range of music, from blues to Tejano to rock.

“We have made a name for ourselves in the local community,” said Huerta of Siempre.

Not only is the band known locally, but Huerta’s travels to perform have led to an exciting new avenue for her music.

At a performance at the Lordsburg Tejano Festival, a Tucson-based promoter recorded Huerta singing the national anthem and sent the recording to Tejano music luminary Shelly Lares, who is now a music producer.

Lares, said Huerta, “was looking for young, new people to push into the Tejano world.”

“When she got that video, she said she was inspired by my voice,” Huerta said, “and since then we have been working together making music.”

With Lares’s help, Huerta released a music single, “Superheröe,” which she debuted in a solo performance at the 2023 Tejano Mundial Music Awards Fan Fair in San Antonio, Texas. “It was so cool to meet everyone in the industry,” she said, “It was such a fun and new experience for me.” The song has gone on to make the top ten in the Tejano Gold Countdown.

Most recently, Huerta returned to San Antonio in February for the Premios Tejano Mundial awards ceremony. “What is super exciting this year,” said Huerta, “is that I got nominated for Tejano Mundial Best New Artist of the Year.” While she did not ultimately win, she was honored to be nominated and excited to learn that she made the cut into the top five of nominees.

“Being in the same room with musicians I have grown up listening to my whole life was so special,” said Huerta of her experience at the awards ceremony, “I’m proud to represent New Mexico, WNMU, and especially Grant County all the way in San Antonio TX.”

Huerta will be returning to San Antonio in March to perform once again at the Tejano Mundial Fan Fair, but this year she will be joined by the rest of her band. “Performing at the Fan Fair with my band, Siempre, means the world to me,” she said, “We are like a family and have put so much work into producing quality shows. I sang as a solo track artist last year and had such a fun and enriching experience. With the Siempre band, it is going to be a performance to remember.”

Huerta gives credit for her successes to the many people who have supported her on her journey—her family, community, audiences, producer and band-mates as well those in the WNMU community who have helped her work toward her academic goals or who have cheered her on her musical path.  She feels profoundly lucky and extremely grateful to have had such broad support from her community on campus and off. Ultimately, she indicated, these are the people who inspire her to continue on her way to becoming a nurse.

“I chose nursing because I felt it was a way to give back to people and show people the same love that they have given me,” she said.

Keana Huerta was an understudy for the upcoming Amazon Prime TV episode of “The College Tour” that was filmed on campus in November.






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