SAN JUAN – For the first time in the school’s history, the PSJA Early College High School Mighty Bear Band advanced to the UIL State Marching Contest to be held on Nov. 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

According to Band Director John Garza, the Mighty Bear Band is composed of more than 180 students who have been leaving their heart and sweat at practice since last year working toward this show. Inspired by the work and art of Vincent van Gogh, he shared that their production entitled “Starry Night” has resonated and motivated kids to push hard through their toughest challenges.

“We’ve been preparing for this show since last year,” Garza said. “It’s an honor to be representing our school and our district at State. We’re so grateful for all the support we’ve received from our PSJA family.”

Garza, who first took over the Bear Band in 2015, shared that their musical journey to get to State has been far from easy, but seeing the special bonds students have formed over the years has made it all worth it.

“When I first took over, we had to change the culture and help students believe they could do anything,” said the Band Director of the challenges they faced. “We’ve come a long way since then. Our band’s motto now is ‘we’re not a family by blood, we’re a family by choice.’”

For Clarinet Section Leader Mariana Hernandez, that motto resonates with her now more than ever.

“It's been an amazing journey,” said the junior who plans to graduate with an Associate Degree in Mathematics before graduating from high school. “Our Bear Band is a true family. When we come together, despite all coming from different backgrounds and households, we trust each other and stick together through everything.”

According to Hernandez, finding out the band advanced to State was surreal for her and her fellow bandmates.

“As we heard them make the announcement, all these flashbacks of us working so hard at practice came to my mind,” said Hernandez. “It means everything to us to show everyone what we can do and leave a legacy behind in our school.”

To celebrate the band's historical accomplishment, the PSJA ISD community will be uniting for a special send-off on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 10:00 am from the school on Ridge Rd and Veterans traveling east on Ridge. All community members interested in attending to support the Mighty Bear Band are asked to line up starting at Carman Elementary to old Business 83.