UT names its first-ever Black band director amid ‘Eyes of Texas’ controversy

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An alumnus of the Longhorn Band is coming back to be its first Black director.

Cliff Croomes, who has a doctorate in musical arts from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, was named the 15th director of the Longhorn Band on Wednesday. He’s a 2001 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music and was working at LSU as the assistant director of bands.

Cliff Croomes. (UT photo)

Croomes takes over for Scott Hanna, who is retiring at the end of May. Croomes begins his duties, which also includes being the associate director of bands, June 1.

He also held positions at Georgetown High School and San Antonio’s Douglas McArthur High School before he went to LSU.

He said leading the Longhorn Band is “a dream come true.”

The band has been at the center of controversy over the playing of the university’s alma mater “The Eyes of Texas.” Students at the university, including athletes, along with advocacy groups were part of a movement to have the band stop playing the song due to its perceived racial undertones and historical connections to minstrel shows. The university assembled a committee to investigate the song’s history and lyrical intent, and it found the song “was not overtly racist.”

In March before Croomes was hired, school officials said the Longhorn Band will be required to play “The Eyes of Texas” this coming year. The band performs at football games and other “high-profile” events across campus. During the 2020 football season, the song was played over the football stadium’s public address system and not by the band.

School officials said they will create the “University Band,” separate from the Longhorn Band, for students who don’t want to play the school’s alma mater but still want to participate in a marching band. It will focus on students who want to “lead/direct band and community engagement,” the university said. Scholarship opportunities are also available with the newly-created band, and the band will start playing in Fall 2022.

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