The “Eyes of Texas” will fill the streets of London as the University of Texas Longhorn Alumni Band accepts an invitation to play in the 2015 London New Year’s Day Parade.
Former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, traveled from England to present a formal invitation to the band on UT’s campus at Denius Field.
Nefertiti Williams, Longhorn Alumni Band President, said the band’s invitation is a great honor and has many band members excited.
“Being presented the invitation from someone with such a notable background as Winston Churchill’s grandson, adds to the excitement and honor to be one of the few American bands invited,” said Williams.
The London New Year’s Day Parade is a 2-mile route with about 10,000 performers from all over the world. The day’s festivities entertain both local spectators watching from the streets and a worldwide audience tuning in live. The parade is a part of a larger series of concerts and performances sponsored by London between Christmas and New Year’s called the London Parade Festival.
Of all the bands invited to march, less than 25 percent are American said Williams.
Williams said for a band to receive an invitation to play in the parade it must be nominated and reviewed by a selection committee rather than by submitting an application or audition tape.
Paula Crider, former UT Butler School of Music Professor and former Longhorn Band Assistant Director, nominated the band. Crider has been an adjudicator or judge for the parade for the past 17 years.
“There is not another organization or band that can put on a performance with the numbers they have,” Crider said. “It speaks well for the traditions of the university.”
Currently there are over 3,000 members from all over the world registered in the alumni bands database. Williams said she wants to have at least 500 members at the parade.
“The record for the largest band is 419 and I would like to break that record with at least 500 members marching in the parade,” Williams said. “Everything is bigger in Texas.”
Unfortunately, one of the original and oldest members of the Longhorn band will not be a part of the record-breaking number.
Described by both Crider and Williams as “The Godfather,” Vincent DiNino was one of the original Longhorn Band Directors and his late wife Jane DiNino started the alumni organization in 1964 with 67 members.
“She never thought that it would turn into something this big or that we would get invited to do things internationally, and neither did I,” said DiNino.
DiNino, now 95-years-old, said he is proud of the direction the organization has taken and says that the London trip should be interesting. “It is a remarkable city.”
Williams said this is the first international event for the band.
Annually over 800 Longhorn alumni, band members return to Darrel K. Royal stadium to play at halftime of a UT football game. They perform their signature show, “The Blast from the Past.” During the performance, the alumni band march on their own and then mix in with the current UT band to have over 1000 performers on the field.
Outside of the combined show, the alumni band usually performs within the state of Texas at birthday parties, weddings and even funerals, accepting donations for the general scholarship fund.
The London parade is also a charity event for the English city’s boroughs.
“It’s phenomenal that we can help other charities internationally and spread that great message that what happens hear changes the world,” said Williams.
Programs are sold to raise funds for different local charities that each London borough chooses or the entire city collectively donates the money to one cause, like the tsunami relief effort in 2005.
The band’s trip is expected to last eight days and seven nights. Williams said it would be a perfect vacation for members and their families’ right after Christmas and hope they can stream in a UT bowl game so they can cheer on the Longhorns from abroad.