New girl in town: 12-year-old sings in shadow of Tejano star Selena

San Antonio girl vies to become the next Selena

SAN ANTONIO -- If you start the music, she will sing like a bird feathered in the prettiest notes a child can conjure up. The strange thing? Her voice is blanketed in tones of maturity that no 12-year-old can possibly comprehend. Isabel Marie Sanchez understands that she's preparing to embark on the next level to become a star.

"I just love to sing from my heart," Isabel said.

That's it. Isabel wants to make music lovers happy through her music. Of course, the young songstress wants to take on a few causes to save the world too, like finding a cure for cancer. But it's really about growing into her gift so others can be touched by it.

"Music is everything really," she said. "Without music the world wouldn't be the same."

Her world started in Chicago the day she was born. Sounds, notes and songs were recognized for their potential early on by her father Carlos, who serves as her manager and vocal instructor. By age 6, his little girl won a talent show. She was on her way.

Her powerful rendition caught the ear of a high-ranking Cook County, Illinois, official who invited Isabel to sing for an event. Since then, it's been mayoral events and inaugurations, festivals with as many as 3 million people within reach of her voice and the Star Spangled Banner for the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center, to name a few.

In fact, the demand for Isabel has become so great she's being home-schooled to provide the latitude needed to concentrate on her music career.

Her family moved to San Antonio three years ago. Her parents are proud of their budding star. The pride and support also comes from 21-year-old brother Carlos Jr. and 19-year-old sister Sofia. Their baby sister may have struck the right note in the family of Tejano music icon Selena.

"She's got the talent. She's got the charisma, the personality and youth," said Abraham Quintanilla. "That's a good combination."

Quintanilla is Selena's father, the man who remembers taking his daughter through the male-dominated Tejano music world, trying to make her a star. Selena shattered the glass ceiling for those who tried before her and female entertainers who follow her path. Quintanilla said he favors female vocalists for that reason.

"Selena has always been my inspiration," said Isabel, who remembers the slain star being the soundtrack of many family memories.

Q Productions signed Isabel to a record. In fact, she learned two songs written on a napkin in less than an hour in the same studio where Selena recorded songs. Quintanilla said he's calling Isabel's album "There's a new girl in town." It's scheduled for release in March.

"Her voice is very similar to Selena," he said.

Isabel's forthcoming work will feature Tejano, Cumbia and Mariachi. The tunes are age-appropriate, targeting the so-called Hispanic tween audience. One of the tunes is called "Un Beso."

The young singer is not a one-trick pony. A check of her YouTube page shows her vocal portfolio, where she's taken on Christina Aguilera, Etta James and Whitney Houston almost effortlessly.

"I feel that she is going to do something," said Quintanilla.

Selena's husband, San Antonio's Chris Perez, said Isabel reminds him of why he got into music in the first place. He said it's simply the music. Perez believes while the Selena comparisons will come, Isabel Marie Sanchez can sing on her own two feet.

"She is her own artist," Perez said. " I'm sure she is going to grow into this."


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