Texas Longhorns band performs pregame against Utah Utes during an NCAA college football game at the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

UT dean to Longhorn Band leaders: When band returns, ‘It will be expected to perform The Eyes of Texas’

Band not expected to play against TCU on Oct. 3; School leaders encourage ‘reasoned and informed discussion’ about The Eyes

Posted September 25th, 2020

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The Longhorn Band will not perform at Texas’ next home game against TCU on Oct. 3. But when the band returns, the dean of the College of Fine Arts has informed band leaders that it will play “The Eyes of Texas.”

In a letter posted on UT’s website, Douglas Dempster wrote to leaders in the UT Butler School of Music and acknowledged that students may be divided about playing the school song.

“When the Longhorn Band performs, it will be expected to perform The Eyes of Texas,” Dempster wrote. “Some feel they cannot in good conscience continue to perform it. Others take pride in the song. And I know yet others are conflicted. This is threatening the unity and viability of the band as a band.”

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The dean writes that “regrettably” it is not clear whether the UT band can perform safely because of COVID-19. Thus, the band will not perform against TCU. As of now, it’s unknown whether the band will travel to Dallas for the Oklahoma game on Oct. 10. Other schools around the country have allowed their bands to perform during games, albeit spaced out in the stands.

“However, even if we could, 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,” Dempster wrote.

Professor Jerry Junkin conducts the Longhorn Band during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Dallas, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“I encourage you to foster a dialogue among students in the band about moving forward together on this issue,” he continued. “I’m prepared to support this effort with whatever facilitation, resources or expertise may be needed. These conversations can be used to inform the university’s broader discussion as well.”

This summer, Texas football players made a list of requests to force the school to address several issues regarding its racial past. The school agreed to many of the changes, even renaming the field in honor of Heisman winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.

However, the players also requested UT change the school song, touching off a major political fight between donors, fans and administrators. The song was performed in minstrel shows in the early 1900s but came to signify school pride in the decades to come.

UT President Jay Hartzell announced his decision in July to keep the school song and that the school must “redefine” what the song stands for. “Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed,” Hartzell wrote in a campus-wide letter posted in July.

The band did not perform during UT’s season-opening win over UTEP on Sept. 12. Fight songs and other music were played over a loudspeaker. When the game was over, The Eyes began playing almost immediately as the clock hit 0:00. UT players were congratulating the Miners on the game, and the song was quickly finished.

Senior safety Caden Sterns, who told reporters he would no longer sing the song, was one of the Longhorns that jogged off the field. Others walked toward the locker room. As of now, it’s unclear whether players will stay on the field and sing The Eyes with fans ever again, something the team has done for years.

Dempster wrote to the Butler School of Music leaders that Hartzell “asked us to reunite around the song even as we acknowledge its origins.”

“When the Longhorn Band returns to public performances, we can hope that our students will be able to perform The Eyes in good conscience, with full awareness of its history as well as trust that its meaning isn’t fixed indelibly by the past, but defined by our values today.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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