Longhorn Band and Alumni Work to Become the Most Funded College Band in the Country

The Longhorn Band in Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Longhorn Band is more than just a college marching band—it’s the drumbeat of Longhorn pride. Performing at every home football game, traveling to away games, and animating events across campus year-round, the “Showband of the Southwest” is the largest spirit organization at UT and part of almost every UT student’s college experience.

This year, the UT development team revived efforts to fundraise for the Longhorn Band (LHB) with the “Back the Band” project. With the University’s move to the SEC and the 125th season of the band approaching in 2024, LHB needs funding now more than ever, said EmilyAnne Skinner, BS ’05, Life Member, executive director of development at University Development.   

The goal is to raise $75 million for the Longhorn Band, which includes growing its endowment. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Longhorn Alumni Band and University Development started to collaborate on how to raise more funds for LHB. This initial fundraising effort raised $25 million over the past few years. The rebranded “Back the Band” project has raised an additional $3 million since its launch on Sept. 1, 2023.   

“It’s important for the band to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient,” Skinner says. Currently, the band relies on institutional funding from Texas Athletics and the President’s Office, which isn’t guaranteed and can fluctuate year to year. “A big part of this is helping the band build up their permanent endowment, so they have funds forever.”  

In the SEC, LHB will be competing with some of the most funded bands in the country. Many of these bands have newer facilities, scholarships for every band student, and university-owned instruments of all kinds. In comparison, LHB has almost 400 members, but only about a third as many scholarships, and the rehearsal space the band uses is the Music Building & Recital Hall which was built more than 50 years ago.   

In the past, some of the biggest supporters of the band have been members of the Longhorn Alumni Band (LHAB), but band alumni and UT development hope to reach a broader audience with this campaign.  

“Band alumni have been at the forefront of support for LHB over the years, but we need Longhorns from all over to step up and help preserve what is essentially the soundtrack of The University of Texas and make sure the best marching band in the SEC is wearing burnt orange,” Kent Kostka, BA ’91, Life Member, president of the LHAB board of trustees said in an email.  

The support from LHAB has not faltered. Currently, LHAB has more than 150 endowed scholarships that help to financially support students of various backgrounds. Band alumni also provide funds for equipment, uniforms, and other essentials.  

Many of the LHB alumni fondly remember the life lessons they learned and lasting friendships they formed during their time in the band. For them, the easiest way to ensure others share those experiences is by helping fund current band members through scholarships and other donations.   

Longhorn Band percussionists in front of Gregory Gymnasium.

LHAB member and former LHB clarinetist Mike Korte, BA ’89, Life Member, attributes success in his career partly to LHB. He says he learned teamwork, how to prepare and plan, and the logistics of running a big organization from his time with LHB. This motivated him to endow a scholarship, which he says is for “that kid.”  

“When I was talking with the previous band director about setting [a scholarship] up and describing my [idea], he goes, ‘Oh, that kid.’ The one that doesn’t cause trouble, is 100 percent reliable—the kind of kid that maybe the section leaders could say, ‘Hey, Mike, you gotta take care of this group. We need to go focus over here,’ because they know that they’ll help out and take care of things,” Korte says. “They’re that second level of leadership.”  

Korte says he hopes to make someone’s life better with his scholarship, and he plans to continue supporting the Longhorn Band behind the scenes through donations toward equipment and uniforms.   

Piccolo player and LHAB member Kathy O’Connor, BS ’81, Life Member, also endowed a scholarship for a specific character in LHB: the underdog. O’Connor came from a small town, and she wants to support current band members with similar backgrounds.   

O’Connor says she knew she wanted to be in LHB since she saw them perform at a UT football game at 5 years old. She hopes her scholarship will help band members be able to stay in the band all four years and appreciate their experience the way she did.   

Former LHB flags member and flute player Belinda Linstrum, ’78, Life Member, created her scholarship in honor of her late husband, Todd, BA ’79, Life Member, who was also a flags member in the band and played French horn.   

“[Todd] would always support the band through many contributions, but he passed away suddenly. This was just the best way I could possibly honor him because he loved the band,” Linstrum says. “I hope that it will help someone further their education and become whatever their best self is going to be.”  

These scholarships and donations directly affect the lives of students. Mia Mason, the head section leader of Texas Drums in LHB and bass drum player, says being in the band and having a scholarship from LHAB has been a “lifesaver.”  

“Now I don’t have to stress about how I’m going to pay for college or having to pay thousands of dollars’ worth of student loans once I’m done,” says Mason, a third-year environmental engineering major. “It’s a really nice thing to know that we love this organization, and they love us just as much.”  

Mason says she appreciates the community band has given her and the ability to learn leadership and time management.   

“The band has been the best experience of my life,” Mason says. “It’s been the backbone of my college career [and] the people I cherish most in my life.”

CREDITS: Courtesy of the University; Sloan Breeden


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