Here’s How a South Texas School Won the State Championship

The odds were against these students, but they proved naysayers wrong.

By Joy DiazApril 19, 2016 11:35 am

If football is king in Texas, marching bands and drum lines are part of the royal family.

This is the true story of an underdog high school band going all the way to the championships – and winning.

Earlier this month, a drum line out of United ISD in south Texas took home gold.

Jose Luis Vara, a 25-year-old band director at LBJ High School in Laredo, became the band director right out of college. He’s one of Texas’s youngest band directors.

He says he knew what he was marching into.

“I knew that this school particularly was a very low socio-economic status,” Vara says. “That’s actually one of the reasons why I took that job – because it’s the same type of kids, same environment where I grew up.”

When he first started, the school had a few instruments. Parents were supporting the band as much as they could. Raising money to participate in competitions was a challenge. But one of the biggest obstacles, Vara says, were the kids themselves.

“They didn’t believe in themselves,” he says. “They’ve been told their whole lives that they can’t do things.”

Many of them were told to not even bother with going to school.

“Half the work of teaching these kids was getting them motivated,” Vara says. “There’s definitely challenges on what you can tell them only so many times. The point that I would try to get across the most is that these kids have great potential … and those people that are telling them that they can’t – they don’t know any better.”

Vara says he taught his students that they have to prove those people wrong.

“I always tell them that it’s all a mind game,” he says. “The smartest drumline wins.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above. 

This post prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.