The Van Alstyne High School Band program is tuning up and will be ready to rock as the new school year approaches. The 2017-2018 Panther Band will kick off its season with a performance for the community at the official groundbreaking of the new Bob and Lola Sanford Elementary School on Thursday morning. The band will have the advantage of welcoming 24 freshman into the program and is welcoming back 19 seniors as the program enters a University Interscholastic League competition year.

“This year is a state year for us, so we’re getting ready for another run at state,” Van Alstyne High School Band Director Tim Fulton said. “We didn’t compete last year, we compete every other year.”

In 2013 and 2015, the last times the Panther Band entered UIL Championships, the Panther Band advanced beyond the area and regional rounds to the state round of competition. Fulton and the rest of the musicians at Van Alstyne High School are more determined than ever to make the most out of the competition year.

“It’s our year to advance to state.” Fulton said.

He said the band program gives students the opportunity to stand beneath Friday night lights for elaborate halftime shows, UIL competitions and numerous other events by playing in front of the community of Van Alstyne there to support them.

The program officially started up preseason activities with a camp and band uniform checkout during the first of two annual Panther Band camps that was held from July 31 to Aug. 4.

“Learning music, getting the show ready and getting all our band family stuff done,” Fulton said of the camps goals.

The Panther Band returned for the second half of camp on Monday and will work on routines and learn the songs that will be played at events throughout the year before the camp concludes on Friday. Marching band practice is scheduled to commence when students begin classes on Aug. 23.

The Panther Band will provide the soundtrack to a historic occasion for the Van Alstyne Independent School District and the community during the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, and will also perform for the Van Alstyne High School faculty on the morning of Aug. 16 at the High School. Fulton and the Panther Band will host a sneak peak performance for family and friends on Aug. 21 for the final performance before the school year commences.

“Of course we have a family performance before the school year starts,” Fulton said. “We always do that, have the family and friends come out and watch the band and see what they have learned so far over the course of the camp.”

The mission statement on the Van Alstyne High School band’s homepage states that the goal of the Van Alstyne High School Music Program is to give each student an opportunity for musical growth through individual and group activities. The program also aims to help the student musicians discover their leadership qualities to foster self-esteem and determination through membership in a high quality musical organization.

Above all, Fulton said, it is his and the Van Alstyne High School music department’s mission to encourage the Panther musicians to develop a life-long love and appreciation of music.

The Panther Band will travel with the Van Alstyne High School Panther football team on Sept. 1 when Van Alstyne kicks off the season against Dallas Hutchins before traveling to Bonham on Sept. 8. The Panther Band will make its debut on their home field when the Panthers take on the Anna Coyotes on Sept. 15.