Texas to create separate band in which members won't have to play controversial 'Eyes of Texas'

Nick Bromberg
·3-min read

Texas band members who don't want to play the "Eyes of Texas" school song will soon have the option to be part of a separate band. 

The school announced Wednesday that it would be creating a second school band as controversy still swirls surrounding the school song. That second band won't be required to play the school song while members of the original band will have to play the song if they want to be a part of it.

“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,” Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement. “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.”

The school said that it is increasing its band options “to provide students individual choices for study, participation, and performance.”

Members of the “Longhorn Band” will continue to be required to play the alma mater and school fight song and will perform at school sporting events and other high-profile events. Members of the "University band" — the band section not required to play the school song — will have unspecified "opportunities to perform at official university and sporting events and other venues."

The Texas Longhorns marching band performs on the field at halftime of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Texas band members can choose a band that doesn't require them to play the "Eyes of Texas" school song. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Texas commissioned study on song

The creation of the new band comes as Texas continues its attempts to placate donors and alumni who want the song to continue as the alma mater and students who believe the song has racist connotations and should no longer be played.

Texas said in March that athletes would no longer be required to sing the song at school events after a school-commissioned study on the song. The study found there was no “racist intent” behind the over 100-year-old song but that it debuted in a “racist setting.” It was performed at minstrel shows in the 1900s.

Students spoke out against the song over the summer as social and racial justice movements increased across the country. Black athletes at Texas said they wanted the school to make changes, including the renaming of buildings and the dropping of the song as the alma mater.

Band members did not play the song at the final two home games of the 2020 football season. 

The request to drop the song and subsequent student actions drew backlash from donors. Some of those donors angrily emailed the school and demanded that it stand up to its athletes and continue to require the school song to be played and sung at sporting events.

Band members were also included in the March statement that said students would no longer be required to sing or play the song. And it appears that Wednesday’s announcement is Texas’ way of giving prospective band members the option of not playing the song.

According to the school’s announcement, every member of each band will have to audition to get a spot and receive a performance scholarship of $1,000.

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