Overnight Success: School of Music Alum Achieves Goal Through Hard Work

Dr. Oscar Diaz '00, Eden Garza '19
Professor Oscar Diaz with Eden Garza


Twenty years ago, trombone professor Dr. Oscar Diaz was student-teaching for a band director at a high school in Alice, Texas. 


Little did Diaz know, one of the band director’s sons would later join the trombone studio where he taught, with a dream of performing orchestral music for a living--an ambitious dream for a young bass trombone player. 


A product of South Texas himself, Diaz graduated from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2000 with a degree in Music Education. He went to Greeley, Colorado to earn his master’s degree before returning to Kingsville to help mold the next generation of music educators and performers.


Eden Garza was one such individual. Raised in a musical household, Garza remembers when his dad would joke with him about majoring in music. He would laugh and say, “That’s never going to happen.”
“It was my older brother who was the musician, he was a trumpet player, he made all-state,” Garza says.


In high school, Garza pursued a non-musical passion; competitive bodybuilding. It was not until performing at the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) annual conference as a senior in high school, and making all-state, did Garza begin to see a future in music for himself. 

A self-described “brass jock,” who enjoys playing “the louder the better,” it was ultimately softer, more emotional music that drew him in.


“When I exercised, I would always listen to orchestral music or film scores,” he says.


Once, on a treadmill, while listening to “Adagio for Strings” composed by Samuel Barber, Garza was shocked to realize the song had moved him to tears. 


After his first semester, Garza was not convinced Music Performance was the right move and switched his major to Exercise Science/Pre-Physical Therapy.
Only a month into the spring semester, he began to miss performing. 


He still had classes with a few friends from the Trombone Studio. “I knew the music they were playing,” he says. “I was always like, ‘Damn. I wish I could play that.’”


While he was enjoying his new major so far, he realized performing meant more than anything else. 
Diaz worked with Garza as he returned to music performance and rejoined the program. The spots Garza once earned in the smaller ensembles were filled, but he was grateful to be back.


One of the highlights of his undergrad career was the opportunity to perform with the Trombone Studio that summer in Spain, as part of the International Trombone Festival. 
His first time out of the country, he says the trip opened his eyes to the European style of playing trombone and gave him a chance to meet and interact with musicians he had only seen in online videos. 


After graduating in 2019, Garza began a Master’s in Music Performance program at Butler School of Music of The University of Texas at Austin. He describes the experience as a culture shock. “Everyone was doing their own thing…the building was so big. It wasn’t as communal as [A&M-Kingsville] was.”


Garza made the most of the situation by practicing as much as possible. When the University of Texas campus closed a few months later due to COVID-19, Garza was forced to continue his program online and move back home to Alice.


Instead of settling for online-only instruction, Garza connected with Dr. Diaz and began playing in-person as soon as he was safely able to and continued to be involved with the studio throughout the rest of his graduate program.


Last summer, he entered the International Trombone Association Quartet Competition with three tenor trombone players from A&M-Kingsville. Garza represented UT as one-fourth of “The Chulobones”.

Garza shared what a crossroads that time felt like for him. “I almost quit playing trombone last year,” he admits. Exercise Science was still in the back of his mind and he planned to start a master’s program that fall if no employment prospects came from auditioning. 


At ITF, Garza received an email from the Cleveland Orchestra; he would now be able to audition in person and potentially be hired as a member of the orchestra. He describes it as a “fireworks” moment. 


Out of the 75-100 musicians in a modern "full orchestra", only one is a bass trombone player. Once this position is filled, it is occupied for years if not decades. When spots do open, there is a remarkable amount of competition for each seat.
After not advancing further in Cleveland, Garza thought he would need to put his dream on hold and opt for an 8 to 5 job. 


Luckily, Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s adjunct trombone professor took a new job out of state. Knowing there were too many trombone majors for one professor to teach, Garza reached out to Diaz, offering to help.


Diaz was not only flexible as a boss, but encouraged Garza to keep auditioning, saying, “I know you’re going to get a job, I’m just not sure where.”
Garza says being in the music school environment, “really helped me stay focused and do these auditions.”
“When you’re at home or working somewhere else it’s hard to get this mindset. But, if you’re immersed in a music school, you see all these students just grinding; working, working, working. It’s easy to do that for yourself too, because you’re pushing them.”


Garza’s preparation hit a new level when he was invited to audition in Seattle. He was given a long list of excerpts. Not knowing which one he’d be asked to play, he focused on becoming comfortable playing all of them. He played through the entire list at least once a day.

At the audition in March, Garza beat over 100 applicants and earned a tenure-track role as a section member with the Seattle Symphony.

Garza is the first former student from Texas A&M University-Kingsville to win a full-time major orchestral job.

Dr. Paul Hageman, recently retired Director of TAMUK’s School of Music says Garza is, “a spectacular musician, bass trombonist, and young man. It has been so rewarding to have him teach for us this past year, and I am particularly proud of him as he is a ‘grand-student’ of mine."

"His father, Arnold Garza, was one of my jazz students…he is a fantastic high school band director today. Eden took after his father in his love and pursuit of music, and it is so rewarding to see generations of Javelina musicians achieve so much and contribute to the musical world in this manner.”

Dr. Diaz says, “This is a huge deal, for the school, for the Trombone Studio. For his family…because it’s hard, parents always ask me, when students want to do this, ‘Can they do it?’”
Diaz notes that not only is Eden representing Javelina Nation, his achievement also means critical representation for the Hispanic community. 

Classical musicians at the professional level are largely white. According to data compiled by the League of American Orchestras, despite making up almost 19% of the American population, Latinx musicians comprise just 2.5% of American orchestras. 

When the 2022-23 season begins September 17; a band director from Alice will have the chance to watch his son perform at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.

No matter which of the 2,479 he chooses, this proud dad will have the best seat in the house.

Story and Photos by Jenilee Rollefstad.  Questions or Comments? Email javalumni@tamuk.edu.


Photo of Benaroya Hall courtesy of Frank Fujimoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/fmf0/40551256464.


To learn more about the Seattle Symphony or watch live stream performances, visit https://seattlesymphony.org.


Follow the TAMUK Trombone Association on social media by visiting https://beacons.ai/tamukbones.