Marching to a better drummer
By Angela Curtis
Before Vince DiNino, there was no Show Band of the Southwest. That changed in 1955 when DiNino became the first full-time director of the Longhorn Band. The formerly all-white, all-male band began admitting women and people of color. Band members were held to strict standards for musicianship and marching. Uniforms changed to the cowboy style we know today, and the band gained national prominence.
After 20 years as Longhorn Band director DiNino put down his baton, but his influence continues today. And thanks to a series of gifts he has given to the band and the Butler School of Music, his impact will continue long after his lifetime.
DiNino, 91, has chosen to give to the University through several charitable gift annuities. With a charitable gift annuity, you give the University an irrevocable gift and you receive an annual fixed income for life — something that DiNino says helps keep him financially afloat.
“The safety factor is important,” he says.
Making ends meet can be difficult when pension plans don’t pay annual cost-of-living increases, DiNino says. Next year, retirees will also have to forgo the usual increase in their Social Security. That makes the income from DiNino’s charitable gift annuities particularly important.
“I would recommend charitable gift annuities most highly for somebody who wants additional income during retirement — especially if you have some kind of pension or retirement that doesn’t have an automatic cost-of-living increase,” DiNino says.
The University has been a part of DiNino’s life for 54 years. He was Longhorn Band director from 1955–1975 and director of UT Bands from 1970–1985. He now serves as director emeritus of both and comes to campus several times a week to help out his successors — UT Bands Director Jerry Junkin and Longhorn Band Director Rob Carnochan.
“If they need something, I can do it. But they’re such a good team that I’m just kind of a senior man,” DiNino says. “You know — the godfather.”
Two of DiNino’s most recent gift annuities — scholarships for the drum major and band president — are named in honor of Junkin and Carnochan.
DiNino earned a bachelor’s in music education from the University of Minnesota and a master’s in music from North Dakota State University in Fargo. He served in San Francisco during World War II before working as a professional French horn player in California and New York. He was a high school band director in Alexandria, Minn., when Texas asked him to direct the Longhorn Band.
As the band’s first full-time director, DiNino knew that a lot was expected of him. Before he took the helm in 1955 the band didn’t have much of a reputation — at least not a good one.
DiNino began making changes as quickly as he could — always making sure he never asked band members to do anything he wasn’t doing. He instituted a strict practice schedule, stepped up recruiting efforts, began admitting women and minorities, and led the way in replacing the outdated “high school band uniform” with the modern version. (Band members wore white hats; DiNino wore a signature black hat.) Student Ron Aldis, publicity director for the band, coined the term “The Show Band of the Southwest,” and the name stuck. The band had finally earned some respect, and it became a national presence.
Parents of would-be recruits entrusted their children to DiNino because he promised to look after them — and he did. Known to band members as Mr. D., he treated them like they were his own.
“Once you were in, you were my boy or my girl,” he says.
He made sure band members had enough water while they were performing. He knew that Texas kids were unaccustomed to the colder weather at away games, so he asked the University to provide jackets with band uniforms. Today some of his best friends are former section leaders and drum majors.
“I loved that band like crazy,” DiNino says. “Basically this is my family.”
During his time as director, DiNino led the band at commencements and parades, in presidential and gubernatorial inaugurations. At the urging of his wife, Jane, he established an alumni band in 1964. And he was there to watch the football team win three national championships.
He still attends every home football game — plus the annual Oklahoma game in Dallas. He relishes his current role helping out current band leaders.
“Now, I get to do all and see all, and I don’t have any responsibilities,” he says.
And game days are as good as ever.
“It’s pretty fantastic,” he says. “You get caught up in the excitement of the day.”
Monday, April 17, 2017
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