UT to require Longhorn Band to play the ‘Eyes of Texas’ but will create new band for those who oppose song

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Members of the Longhorn Band will be required to perform “The Eyes of Texas” Alma Mater at future sporting events.

However, a new marching band, which will be created by the university in Fall 2022, will not be required to play the songs.

On Wednesday night, 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 says 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.”

The Longhorn Band plays at “high-profile” events, alumni events, graduations and sporting events. The Longhorn Pep Band performs at basketball and volleyball games.

All students in the Longhorn Band, Longhorn Pep Band, Mariachi Paredes and the newly created University Band will receive a performance scholarship of $1,000 with band section leaders receiving a minimum of $2,500, according to the release.

The university says a scholarship will be honored for “any rising senior in 2021-22 who wishes to opt out of the Longhorn Band.”

In October 2020, the Longhorn Band director, Scott Hanna, said an internal survey revealed there weren’t enough band members willing to play the Eyes of Texas at the upcoming Longhorns football game due to its origins at minstrel shows.

The song was played off a recording over the PA system throughout the 2020 football season.

Throughout the school’s history, the song had faced multiple calls for its retirement. In March, a UT committee tasked with researching the song announced its findings, stating the intent of “The Eyes of Texas” was not “overtly racist.”

University of Texas Professor Richard Reddick was on the committee to review the Alma Mater’s history. KXAN interviewed him when the 58-page report came out.

“It’s completely valid to think for the work that we did that the ‘Eyes of Texas’ are upon you, eyes of the South… that’s the connection,” said Reddick. “It’s written down, but we found that’s not necessarily verifiable.”

The committee found while the song’s history is complex, they were able to confirm the public likely first sang the song in 1903 at a minstrel show — a form of entertainment that is now condemned for displays of blackface.

“I would hope that the report doesn’t become something that can’t ever be examined again,” said Reddick. “People may say, ‘you know what, I want to go much deeper into the story.'”

With the announcement the song will ring on, Texas National NAACP President Gary Bledsoe condemned UT’s continued use of the song.

“It is more important that they do the right thing rather than play well-to-do with the benefactors of the university,” said Bledsoe. “It’s going to discriminate against band members who are going to have to sit there and be required to tolerate other playing, sitting and honoring.”

UT says the students who join the new band will be offered additional scholarships and have options to waive participation fees. It’s unclear in what capacity the newly-formed band will operate.

KXAN reached out to UT, the schools involved, as well as current and former band members. None of them wished to discuss the change.

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