AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s going to be at least another year before those who don’t want to play “The Eyes of Texas” can join another band that plays at “high-profile” University of Texas at Austin events.
A university spokesperson told KXAN the new university band is on hold until a new director for the Butler School of Music is hired. The spokesperson said, “we hope to have a new director for the Butler School of Music in place for next fall.”
Originally planned to start in fall 2022, the new university band was to be created for UT musicians who objected to playing the alma mater due to the song’s racial history and origins at minstrel shows.
According to a university press release in April 2021, this new band will be for “individuals who want to perform in a marching band, with a focus on leading/directing bands and community engagement. The band will be an academic, for-credit course through the Butler School beginning in Fall 2022 and will not play the university alma mater or the UT fight song.”
Plans for the band were announced in April 2021, but Mary Ellen Poole, who was the Butler School of Music’s director at the time, took a job as a dean at Carnegie Mellon University. Poole had been the music school’s director since 2014.
Jeff Hellmer is serving as the interim director until a permanent one is hired, the university official said.
The search for a new director is ongoing, the spokesperson said, adding, “we expect to have an update about the potential new band once the search for a new director is complete.”
Leaders from the College of Fine Arts, Butler School of Music and University Bands announced plans for the new band along with plans to provide scholarships and waive participation fees for band members.
The release said all students in all bands, including the newly-created one, would get $1,000 performance scholarships, and section leaders’ scholarships would be no less than $2,500.
A committee tasked to review the alma mater said while the song was most likely sung at minstrel shows in the early 1900s, it determined the song’s intent was not “overtly racist.” Minstrel shows were forms of entertainment now condemned for their uses of blackface.