A small town boy is moving on in hopes of having a big time career in music education.

Gilbert Pena Jr., son of Gilbert Sr. and Janie Pena, is ready to turn his love of music into a full-filling career. But first he will attend college at the University of Texas at Austin where he will major in music education.

Gilbert Jr.'s love of music began in the sixth grade when he picked up an instrument for the first time. Since than he has participated in other musical activities such as a drum major for the Mighty Vaquero Band at San Diego High School and went to state with the school's mariachi band, Mariachi Azul Y Oro.

“I'm going to miss seeing my friends and teachers on a regular basis,” Gilbert Jr. said. “But I want to see and experience bigger things in a big town instead of hanging out at Whataburger, which I'll miss too.”

Gilbert Jr. knows that music is more than notes and lyrics; it has emotions, stories and a culture behind each song.

“I want to be able to teach music so that others can understand the stories and culture of an artist,” he said. “I'll be teaching the history not just how to play beautiful music.”

Gilbert Jr. graduated from SDHS on Friday, May 26, but before he received his high school diploma Gilbert Jr. had earned his Associate of Arts from Coastal Bend College. He will join more than 50,000 students at the University of Texas in Austin as a junior.

While he is ready to leave his small hometown for the big city his mother has mixed emotions.

“We've never had to push him to do anything. He always motivated himself. While I'm very proud of the person he's turned out to be, there will be a void in our family without him nearby,” Janie said with tears in her eyes. He has good judgement skills and knows what's expected of him, but as a parent it's hard to let go.”

Gilbert Jr. is unsure of where like will take him, but he understands that everything he'll experience in life would not be possible without his family and friends in San Diego.