Some Longhorn Band members say they are left in the dark about ‘The Eyes of Texas’

Skye Seipp

Some Longhorn Band members said they still don’t know if they will be required to play “The Eyes of Texas” at events and games. Some members said band directors have not provided much communication since UT’s history committee report was released March 9.

The band lacked the “necessary instrumentation” to play the song at a football game last fall, according to an internal survey last October that came after Douglas Dempster, former dean of the College of Fine Arts, said band members were “expected” to play the alma mater at performances. Dempster’s statement contradicted a July letter from Mary Ellen Poole, director of the Butler School of Music, saying members would not be penalized for not playing the song. 

Last fall, some band members refused to play the song because of its racist history. Poole said band leaders are waiting on a decision from UT administrators regarding if band members will be required to play the song.

“That decision will determine how we proceed,” Poole said. “And the band members will be the first to know about that procedure/solution, whatever it is. They have waited long enough.”

UT spokesperson J.B. Bird did not say whether the band will be required to play or not.

“Our student band leaders have had numerous meetings with the University and continue to have important discussions as we work toward a solution,” Bird said.

Issie Luna, a fourth year choral music studies major who has played french horn in the band for the past four seasons, said she attended a meeting with band members, Richard Reddick, chair of the history committee, UT President Jay Hartzell and other committee members on March 9. 

Luna said the conversation was mainly to tell band members to keep an “open mind” when reading the report and to not “cherry pick” information from it, which she said they did as they gave an overview of the report.

Luna said she would not play the song but wants to be in the band for her fifth year.

Associate band director Scott Hanna said there were “limited conversations” with the whole band before the committee’s report was released.

“There have been and will continue to be many meetings and small group discussions as we consider our plans going forward,” Hanna said in an email. “We have actively engaged student leaders through conversations with the Office of the President.”

A copy of a March 10 email from Hanna obtained by The Daily Texan asked band members to have read the report and watched the videos by March 29 for smaller group meetings that would take place sometime that week.

Luna said she has not received any communication about these meetings.

“We’ve missed out on our performance opportunities because of this song,” Luna said. “We’ve missed out on experiences with each other, and the whole reason we’re in band is because we love each other. I want the band directors to talk to us. … We have no idea if they’re on our side or not.”

Clarinet section leader Mercy Ogunlade said she doesn’t believe the directors are prioritizing  conversations with students or listening to students. Ogunlade, a geography and sustainability studies junior, said she worries about her decision to not play the song affecting her ability to get a leadership position or a scholarship, which come from UT alumni.

Ogunlade said she and her peers will not be forced to play anything.

“We need to be told straight up that all decisions will be respected, and we need to have a layout of how next year will look,” Ogunlade said. “They need to listen to us and not only listen but make changes within the band such as what we’re required or not required to play. … I just wouldn’t want to be in an organization … where I don’t feel like I’m being cared for and I don’t feel like my voice is being heard.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 6 issue of The Daily Texan.