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A Legend’s Legacy: Vincent R. DiNino (1918-2014)

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Legendary Longhorn Band director Vincent R. DiNino in front of Big Bertha

Nothing ignites students, alumni and friends of The University of Texas at Austin like the Longhorn Band. And nobody did more to elevate the band to its current iconic status and widespread renown than Vincent R. DiNino. The legend known affectionately as “Mr. D.” was the first full-time director of the Longhorn Band from 1955 to 1975 and the University’s director of bands from 1975 to 1985.

Vincent DiNino was born October 25, 1918 in Manhattan, Kansas. He graduated in 1941 with a B.S. in music education from the University of Minnesota, where he met his wife, Jane Dahlgren, to whom he was married for 67 years before she passed away in 2008. During his UT job interview, Vincent reportedly said, “I will build you the best damn college band in the country.” He did exactly that, and in the process, touched the lives of thousands of Longhorn Band members.

Vision and Leadership

When Vincent arrived on the Forty Acres, the Longhorn Band was a ragtag group run entirely by students and led by a part-time hobbyist conductor. The band lacked organization, morale or even decent uniforms. With steady visionary leadership, Vincent grew the “Showband of the Southwest” from 70 students to nearly 400, opened the then all-male, all-white band to all students, acquired its iconic Western-style uniforms, obtained Big Bertha — the world’s largest bass drum — and formed The Longhorn Alumni Band.

For nearly 30 years after his retirement in 1985, Vincent remained a fixture at campus football and basketball games, concerts, rehearsals, workshops and weekly band staff meetings.

“Vincent R. DiNino is to the Longhorn Band what Darrell K Royal is to UT football,” said Robert Carnochan, former director of the Longhorn Band. “Through his charm, wit, dedication, passion, talent and desire, he built our program to what it is today. He had the unbelievable gift to recall the most minute details about nearly all of the thousands of members of the band who came through the doors of UT.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2017-18) was in the percussion section of the Longhorn Band from 1970 to 1974 and remembers Vincent the same way. “No one was more genuinely caring and concerned about every member of the band than Mr. D.,” he says. “You walk into Mr. D’s office and he would leap up. He made you feel like the most important person on the planet. He was a joyous person and when you walked away from even the briefest encounter with Mr. D you felt uplifted.”

Vincent’s legacy marches on. Jane and Vincent DiNino served on the board of directors of the Longhorn Alumni Band, which established the Jane and Vincent R. DiNino Honorary Scholarship and the Jane Dahlgren DiNino Scholarship for Longhorn Band members. In 2000, the couple donated $500,000 — half the funds for establishing the Vincent R. and Jane DiNino Chair in Music — to benefit students of the Longhorn Band. Throughout his lifetime, Vincent established 14 charitable gift annuities to create endowed student scholarships and support the university’s bands. Thanks to his generosity, Vincent has ensured a bright future for the program and the students who meant so much to him.