Mr. Robert Garza was born and raised in Raymondville, Tx. where he was a member of the Bearkat Band. His band directors in high school included Mr. James Van Zandt, who played a large role in his desire to study music. In 1971, Mr. Garza enrolled at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, Texas as a percussion major where he studied under Dr. Joseph Bellamah and percussionist Ms. Rosemary Small. He has been married to his college sweetheart, Valorie, for 39 years. They have four children, John Michael, Robert Aaron, Anne-Elizabeth, and Charles Antonio. They also have three daughter-in-laws, Lupita, Sarah, and Victoria, one son-in-law, William, and two grandchildren Maria Isabelle and Christian James. John and Anne, as well as William and Victoria, are band directors. Aaron and Sarah are both attorneys in Washington, D.C., and Lupita and Charles are both educators.
Mr. Garza started his career at Brooks Co. ISD. under the mentorship of Solomon Banda and Joe Cadena. His first head director position came three years later in Raymondville, where he was the director for Myra Green Jr. High for eight years. His Bearkit Band was a consistent UIL award winner and grew from 90 members in grades 6-8 to over 250. In 1987, Mr. Garza was named as the head director for Rio Hondo ISD where he stayed until his retirement in 2013. During his tenure there, the Bobcat Band was a consistent UIL Sweepstakes award winner, as well as many best in class awards in various marching and concert festivals. The band was selected as a state finalist in the TMEA Honor Band Competition as well as the ATSSB Outstanding Performance Competition numerous times. The band represented the Valley in the UIL Area Marching Contest on many occasions, and came in first in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. The band was selected as a state finalist in 2006, 2008, and 2010. In 2008, the Bobcat Band was awarded the Silver Medal in the State UIL Marching Contest. Students of the band were very successful individually, receiving high honors in Solo/Ensemble Contest, All-Region Band, and the ATSSB All-State Band Competition. At the time of Mr. Garza’s retirement, the band was ranked third in the state in the all-time number of ATSSB All- State Band Members, having placed 69 students in the All-State Band. Several students went on to major in Music Education, and several are band directors across the State.
Mr. Garza is a lifetime member of Kappa Kappa Psi Honorary Band fraternity, as well as an active member of TMAA and Phi Beta Mu. He credits his successes as a music educator to his faith in Christ, his family, great staffs, and the best students anyone could ever hope to have.
Rolando Zapata was born on January 4, 1951 in Sinton, Texas to Joe and Gabriela Zapata. Rolando was educated in Sinton and began studying music under the direction of Sam Guthridge. Rolando’s instrument was saxophone and Mr. Guthridge took time to introduce Rolando to a variety of musical genres. Much of this would have a significant impact throughout his musical career. Sam Guthridge succumbed to lung cancer during Rolando’s junior year and the program was taken over by a very supportive Don Carnes. Not long after starting band, Rolando began performing with various groups in the Corpus Christi area which would take him all over the state of Texas and eventually throughout most of the country.
After high school, Rolando attended Texas A & I University in Kingsville where he was a member of various performing ensembles under the direction of Dr. Joseph Bellamah. Upon receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, Rolando began his teaching career as director for the Rockport-Fulton Junior High band program. Under his direction, and with the guidance and tutelage of Vernon Denman, the band went on to become an award winning organization. After six years, Rolando was assigned as head director for the Rockport-Fulton High School Band. During his time in Rockport, Rolando began to work on his masters degree at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois. While completing his masters degree, Rolando was impacted by some of the most renowned music educators of the time. He was fortunate to have been taught and inspired by such greats as H.E. Nutt, Haskell Harr, A.R. Casavant, Vic Zajac, Forrest Buchtel, Barbara Buehlman, Bill Revelli and many, many more.
It was during his time at VanderCook that Rolando met Bob Vezzetti which eventually lead to an invitation from Bob and Art Guajardo to join the Brownsville Hanna staff in 1982. Rolando moved to Brownsville and began working under Art as an assistant band director of the 2nd band at Hanna. While at Hanna, Rolando was fortunate to work with one of the finest band staffs in the country. He worked and learned from people such as Art Guajardo, Meme Mireles, Paul Brazauskas, and Audrey Paterson. While working under Art, Rolando was introduced to the “Brownsville Sound” which he would use as a benchmark for his entire teaching career. After six very rewarding years with Art, Rolando was named head director for Brownsville’s newest high school, Rivera.
While in Brownsville, Rolando met and married his beautiful wife, Susana. Susana, along with the children, Fernando (Principal – Harlingen South), Errol (Business – State Farm) and Yvanna (Band Director – Harlingen High School), would impact much of life’s priorities for Rolando.
In 1988 Rolando began the last phase of his formal teaching career which would run a span of 25 very rewarding years as head director for the Rivera High School Raider Band. This would eventually define Rolando’s passion for overtures and transcriptions. After many wonderful memories and experiences, Rolando retired in 2013.
During his retirement, Rolando continues to enjoy performing, photography, cooking and hunting, but nothing brings a smile to his face more than the time he spends with his grandchildren, Fernando, Sofia and Andres.