The University of Texas at Austin will require members of its Longhorn Band and Longhorn Pep Band to play its alma mater -- which was first played at a minstrel show where performers likely appeared in blackface -- and the university will create a second marching band in 2022 that will not play its alma mater or fight song.
UT Austin has yet to name the new band, which will be “designed for individuals who want to perform in a marching band, with a focus on leading/directing bands and community engagement,” according to a Wednesday news release announcing the band changes. Financial challenges and concerns about the “Eyes of Texas” alma mater prompted the changes, the release said.
Black students and athletes have called on the university to not play the alma mater, and members of the Longhorn Band have refused to play it at times, The Texas Tribune reported. The Tribune previously reported on emails showing wealthy alumni threatened to revoke donations when university leaders did not strongly back the song in the face of student objections against it.
Last month, UT Austin released a report on the history of the song, finding that it debuted at a student-organized minstrel show in 1903. The committee writing the report suspected students at that show wore blackface while performing but found that the song’s lyrics and meaning were not originally intended to be racist.
In addition to announcing the new band and band repertoire requirements, UT Austin on Wednesday said students in several different bands will receive new $1,000 scholarships. Band section leaders are in line for scholarships of at least $2,500. The scholarships are in addition to non-need-based scholarships.
UT Austin also promised opportunities for different bands to co-perform with the Longhorn Band. And it said it would offer financial support for “outreach efforts and social change opportunities across all university bands” and funding to maintain scholarships for any seniors who opt out of the Longhorn Band in 2021-22.
The university’s president, Jay Hartzell, approved the plan, according to the Wednesday news release.
“During the previous six months, students have worked closely with leadership to identify areas of opportunity for the Longhorn Band to continue to grow, evolve and change in order to restore its historical glory,” it said. “In response, the College of Fine Arts, Butler School and University Bands leadership developed this approach, which President Hartzell approved.”