The University of Texas marching band, long known as the “Showband of the Southwest,” may not perform again this season if band members can’t come to some agreement about playing “The Eyes of Texas.”
A university spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the Longhorn band would not perform during Saturday’s game against Baylor, and it’s clear the band will not be back on the field anytime soon.
On Wednesday, The Daily Texan reported that band members had responded to an internal survey asking whether they would play the now-controversial school song. Band director Scott Hanna told members the band did not have the “necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game.”
The band is “fairly evenly divided in opinion,” Hanna wrote to band members, according to the school newspaper. “Moving toward resolution takes time and sustained effort. The conversations that have started are an important step toward that goal.”
News of an internal survey caught high-level administrators off guard, two people with knowledge of the situation told the American-Statesman on Wednesday. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.Those in the administration thought the issue had already been decided.
“We are continuing to work with students in the Longhorn Band to maintain the musical traditions of the University of Texas, including ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ ” a university spokesman told the Statesman.
In late September, the university released a letter from the dean of the College of Fine Arts, Douglas Dempster, saying the band could not play for the TCU game because of COVID-19. Beyond that, it was unclear.
However, Dempster wrote, “we clearly also need to have more reasoned and informed discussion about the ‘Eyes of Texas’ before the band can continue with its public performances.”
News of an internal survey about “The Eyes” sparked another round of bad headlines, something the university was desperately trying to avoid. A massive PR nightmare thought to be ring-fenced in the athletic department is now spreading to other parts of campus.
The century-old school song has become a flashpoint for its origins dating back to the early 1900s. Some have made short-lived attempts to get the song changed over the years, but this recent push started in earnest this summer as social justice issues came to the fore.
New Texas president Jay Hartzell, who first tackled this issue as the interim president, had said “The Eyes of Texas” would remain the school song going forward.
Athletic director Chris Del Conte is facing donor upheaval because football players have not stayed on the field for the postgame singing of “The Eyes” at home games. Football coach Tom Herman said Monday he had encouraged players to stay even though it was not mandatory.
“I would definitely say it’s been more of a distraction,” defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham said on Tuesday. “I thought we were past this point, past the issues surrounding the song. I thought we were just focusing on the season.”
Now, Longhorn Band members are divided on the issue.
“All of us on staff will do everything we can to create and maintain space for conversations,” Hanna said in his internal message, according to The Texan.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.