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UT requires Longhorn Band to play ‘The Eyes of Texas’ but creates a 2nd band without it

The Longhorn Band will be forced to play the controversial "Eyes of Texas" song next fall, according to an announcement released Wednesday. (Shutterstock)

The Longhorn Band will be required to perform "The Eyes of Texas" at University of Texas sporting events, the Butler School of Music wrote in a press release Wednesday.

In part due to controversy over the alma mater's connection to minstrel shows, the university has announced its future plans include "increased performance options and reduced financial burden for students." To make concessions with the UT students who have refused to play "The Eyes of Texas," the university will begin funding for a separate band, set to start in fall 2022, that will not force students to play the song.

Leaders from the College of Fine Arts, Butler School of Music and University Bands will bring more funding to the bands and students themselves. In addition to the creation of the yet-to-be-named band, students in both the Longhorn Band and new ensemble will receive $1,000 scholarships, and merit-based scholarships will be given out just as before. Section leaders will be awarded at least $2,500 in scholarships.

To avoid forcing students who disagree with the alma mater's storied past, those who opt out of the Longhorn Band next fall to await the new band will still receive merit-based scholarships.

Students sing "The Eyes of Texas" at a UT game, pre-pandemic.

UT President Jay Hartzell endorsed the plan and said that the new funding will take the university's legendary bands to the next level.

"We need to celebrate and nurture what makes UT special, and the Longhorn Band is one of those great organizations that shape our campus culture, elevate school spirit and provide amazing opportunities for our students," Hartzell said in the press release. "Our multi-million-dollar commitment over the next five years will support the Longhorn Band in restoring–and even going beyond–its former glory, while also providing strong support for our entire portfolio of university bands."

With the new band in the works, here's what the university's collection of bands will look like, per the press release:

  • The Longhorn Band will be the most high-profile of the university's bands and will perform at university events, sporting events, graduation and alumni ceremonies. This band will be required to play the alma mater.
  • The Longhorn Pep Band will perform at sporting events such as basketball and volleyball games. This band will also be required to play the alma mater.
  • Existing University Bands include four University Concert Bands, University Jazz Ensemble, University Percussion Ensemble and the University Color Guard.
  • The University Mariachi Paredes is continuing to grow as a unique musical group for the program. While the band won't be required to play the alma mater or other traditional university songs, they will have the option to in certain circumstances.
  • Finally, the new University Band will follow a marching band format "with a focus on leading/directing bands and community engagement." The band will not play the alma mater.
The changes come after a year of controversy surrounding the alma mater beginning in the summer of 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement put the song under question for racist origins. Student athletes walked off the field during the playing of the song, students and fans refused to sing along and the band refused to play the song.
Students urged the university to replace the song, prompting an official investigation into the roots of "The Eyes of Texas." While the study concluded that the song was not "overtly racist" and Hatzell decided the song would remain the UT alma mater, many were unhappy with the outcome of the investigation. A coalition of Black university leaders and alum met the State Capitol last month urging the university to change the song for its history.


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