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Band of the Fighting Irish

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Title: Band of the Fighting Irish  
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Subject: University of Notre Dame, Irish Guard (Notre Dame), Notre Dame Fighting Irish football, Notre Dame Leprechaun, Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band
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Band of the Fighting Irish

Band of the Fighting Irish
School University of Notre Dame
Location Notre Dame, IN
Conference Independent
Founded 1842
Director Ken Dye
Assistant director Sam Sanchez, Larry Dwyer, Matt Merten, Alison Thigpen, Justin McManus
Members 380
Fight song "Notre Dame Victory March"
Uniform Blue pants, a white and blue shako hat with a gold "ND" monogram in front, a half-white, half blue-and-gold jacket with golden lyre buttons in front and a large golden "ND" monogram on the back, an official trademarked and copyrighted green, blue, gold, red, and black plaid (with gold cords for senior members), white gloves, white spats, and black shoes. Special "shamrock awards" are also worn on the front of the uniform by those veteran band members with perfect attendance.

The Band of the Fighting Irish is the marching band of the University of Notre Dame. The over 380 members of the band represent nearly every field of study, and include students from across the United States as well as from overseas.


The Notre Dame Marching band performs at the end of a football game

The band performs at all home football games and pep rallies. A typical home game schedule commences on Friday afternoon when the band marches out from the Main Building to their rehearsal field for a final run-through of their field show, to the delight of onlookers. Following practice, the band marches from the Band Building to the Edmund P. Joyce Center to perform for the pep rally, energizing students and fans alike. At midnight, students and fans gather in front of the main building for the energizing "Drummer's Circle" performed by the drum line to prepare the student body for the following day's events.

Saturday morning commences with an early morning march about campus as a traditional way to "wake-up" students across campus in preparation for game day festivities. Once arriving at the Loftus Indoor Sports Facility,[1] the band practices their field show once more and thereafter convenes for lunch, often performing various songs for special banquets held in the South Dining Hall at this time.

The day continues with a "Concert on the Steps" at Bond Hall, the Architecture Building, as the band performs traditional tunes as well as the half-time field show music in stand-still performance, galvanizing the large crowds surrounding the building. Directly following this performance is the traditional "Trumpets in the Dome" performance in the Notre Dame Administration Building.

Next, approximately half-an-hour before kick-off, the band steps off from in front of the Main Building for their traditional march to the stadium, led by the Cheerleaders and Irish Guard, the band parades down the streets, lined by fans clapping and cheering the Irish onwards to victory.

After performing for pre-game festivities, their half-time show, and the post-game show, the band makes a triumphant march back to the band building after the game, and awaits preparations for the upcoming game day and the next opportunity to support their Fighting Irish football team.

Rehearsal Schedule

The Marching Band rehearses for the duration of the fall semester on Monday through Thursday from 6:30-8:00 p.m., Fridays before home games include a marchout at 4:30 p.m from the Main Building, a rehearsal at 4:45 p.m., and the pep rally at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays have varying schedules depending on the start of the football game.[2]



With more than 380 members, the band features nine main sections: trumpets, drumline, piccolos, clarinets, saxophones, faltos (mellophones, or f-alto horns), trombones, baritones, and basses. The instrumentation of the drumline is further broken down into snare drums, bass drums, tenor drums, cymbals, and mallets. The mallets include both marching xylophones and bells. The saxophone section includes alto and tenor saxophones only. Each instrument provides a vital timbre that contributes to the unique sound of the Notre Dame Band.[3]

Glockenspiels (bells) used to march at the front of the band, and, for several years during the 1970s and 1980s, the rolling tympani led the band onto the field.

Irish Guard

Each football Saturday, the Band of the Fighting Irish is led onto the field for its traditional pre-game salute by the celebrated Irish Guard. This group of precision marchers was formed in 1949 when then Director H. Lee Hope conceived the idea of adding color to the band while maintaining the dignity befitting the nation’s oldest university band.

Unique in the tradition of the Irish Guard is the uniform, which was patterned after the traditional Irish kilt. According to Irish historian, Seumas Uah Urthuile, laws were introduced in Ireland about 1000 AD. concerning the use of colors in clothing. Colors were used to distinguish between various occupations, military rank and the various stages of the social and political spectrum.

During the first few years, the Irish Guard performed on bagpipes. Performances included a variety of Irish tunes as well as several school songs. Prior to each home football game, the Guard would perform around the concourse of the stadium, as well as other areas on campus. Performing on bagpipes was discontinued around 1954.[4]

Student Leadership


The band has an executive committee of officers who represent the band's interests and work collaboratively to establish a working dialogue with directors and the music department to effectively communicate the needs of their constituents, the band members they serve. They are instrumental in preserving the traditions of the band throughout time and help ensure that each and every performer within the band program is enjoying themselves and has adequate support from the directors and staff of the program.


In addition, the band also has a committed group of veteran marchers known as the CORE Band who compose the strong, central leadership core upon which the rest of the band relies for guidance and instruction. These experienced women and men run and conduct the band's annual "Band Camp" held before the beginning of classes, a four day course of marching immersion and an audition process in which CORE Band members instruct auditionees and returners in the musical and marching techniques, pageantry, and spirit unique to the Notre Dame Band. These leaders, in addition to individual section leaders, form a dedicated group of management professionals throughout the entire season, serving as mentors and teachers for their section members.

Band Managers

The band is also privileged to have an upbeat and resourceful cadre of Band Managers who assist the band with daily practices, providing water, equipment, props, and other logistical support duties to ensure the band functions as a well-oiled machine.



Dr. Kenneth Dye

Kenneth W. Dye, is Director of Bands and Professor of Music at the University of Notre Dame. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, where he holds a Doctorate in Music Education and a Master's in Business Administration. He has also earned degrees of Master of Arts in Music from California State University and Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California where he marched in the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band. As a composer/arranger, Ken Dye serves as a staff writer for several publishers and served as composer/arranger for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Band and pops arranger for the Dallas Symphony. His writing activities have produced over 1200 works for band and orchestra performed throughout the U.S. and overseas. Dye's recent composition "Welcome to Beijing," an Olympic Suite for Band, premiered in the Beijing Concert Hall in May 2008. The Olympic Suite is also featured in the 2008 Olympic Arts Festival performed by the Beijing schools.

In addition Dye serves as a concurrent professor of 1984 Olympics, and taught public high school at Artesia High School in Lakewood, California. He has also served as director of the Opening Ceremonies of the U.S. Olympic Festival and conductor of the All-American College Band at Disney World. Ken Dye serves as a music director of numerous special events as well as a clinician and adjudicator throughout North America and the South Pacific.[5]

Assistant Directors

Samuel Sanchez is an Assistant Director with the Notre Dame Band Program. He is a “Double Domer,” holding a Bachelor of Arts in Percussion Performance and a Master of Arts in Musicology, both from the University of Notre Dame. He is also a recipient of Notre Dame’s Outstanding Band Member Award. Sanchez is responsible for designing all of the halftime drills for the Notre Dame Band. He also shares the conducting responsibilities of the concert bands and basketball bands, specializes in areas of music technology and video editing, and rehearses the percussion ensembles and drumline. Sanchez is currently serving his second term as a member of the CBDNA Committee for Athletic Bands. He also works with South Bend’s Salvation Army Kroc Center as coordinator for the percussion section of the Notre Dame Band’s BandLink Program. Sanchez has taken bands to three Women’s Basketball Final Fours and two National Championship Games. He also has served as an adjudicator/clinician for Bowl Games of America and internationally as an adjudicator for the New Zealand Concert Band Association’s National Festival in 2011.

Lawrence Dwyer is a graduate of Notre Dame, where he was Outstanding Bandsman (1966), trombone soloist all four years with the concert band, and twice named “Best Trombonist” at the Collegiate Jazz Festival. He earned his Masters degree in music education and did doctoral studies at the University of Illinois. Dwyer has been principal trombonist of the South Bend Symphony Pops Orchestra, pianist with his own jazz trio, and has performed with such jazz greats as Thad Jones, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and Sarah Vaughan. Among his jazz band compositions are a religious trilogy: The Old Beelzebub Blues, Lord Save the Sinner, and The Abha Kingdom. His orchestral arrangements of the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others have been performed and recorded by the South Bend Symphony, Houston Pops, Utah Symphony, and Rochester Philharmonic. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Dwyer taught band and jazz band in the South Bend public schools, and was director of jazz studies at Concordia University in Montreal.[6]

Matthew Merten is a graduate of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he earned a degree in Music Education and Trombone Performance. After teaching in the public schools of Saint Cloud and Albany (MN), he earned a Master of Music in Trombone Performance and Literature from the University of Notre Dame. He has performed with the St. Cloud Amadeus Orchestra (MN), Minnesota Center Chorale, and Regis Philbin’s Pop Orchestra. At Notre Dame he directs the New Orleans Brass Band, Trumpet Ensemble, Trombone Choir, co-directs the Brass Ensemble, Jazz Bands and teaches applied trombone lessons. Merten is very active in music technology at Notre Dame. In addition to teaching portions of the Music Through Technology Course, he offers private instruction in multi-track recording and software synthesizers. He is also responsible for the production of the Band’s audio recordings.

Alison Thigpen is a graduate of The University of South Carolina. While at South Carolina, Thigpen served as a graduate assistant with the band program and co-conducted the University Band and Basketball Band, and assisted with the 270 member Carolina Marching Band. After her arrival at Notre Dame in 2007, Thigpen now co-directs the University Band and Symphonic Band, directs the Flute and Clarinet Choirs, oversees the Bandlink program, and teaches clarinet lessons.

Justin McManus is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where he earned a M.M. in Bassoon Performance, B.S. in Music Education, and B.A. in Music (Bassoon). During his time at UConn, McManus assisted with the “Pride of Connecticut” Marching Band, Varsity Basketball and Hockey Pep Bands, co-conducted the Concert Band, and performed in a wide array of ensembles. As an undergraduate, he performed with the marching band on tuba, served as manager, and drum major for his last season in the program. An active bassoonist, McManus has performed in a variety of orchestras, wind bands, pit orchestras, chamber ensembles, and held an active private studio of students from across Connecticut. He has studied with Mr. Ron Haroutunian of the Boston Pops, and Mrs. Alicia Simonetti-Sphur. McManus is an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and alumni member of Tau Beta Sigma.


America's First, America's Best

There has always been a close and affectionate tie between the Notre Dame Band and the rest of the Notre Dame community. Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., who founded the University in 1842, is strongly rumored to have been a clarinet player. And while it is possible that the Notre Dame Band and musical studies originated with the University that same year, the earliest reference to the band is in 1846 when it played at the first graduation ceremony. The importance of music on campus also caused a Music Hall/Auditorium to be built as the third major building of the new school after the classroom/dormitory building (The Golden Dome) and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Indiana. The legendary football coach, Knute Rockne, played flute for Notre Dame, and former Athletic Director Edward Moose Krause spent some years studying music before putting his clarinet on the shelf and devoting himself to athletics.

The University of Notre Dame Band is the oldest university band (in continuous existence) in the United States and was honored as such by being declared a "Landmark of American Music" by the National Music Council, the Indiana Music Educators Association and Exxon Corporation during the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial.

The Band of the Fighting Irish has a long tradition of providing music and pageantry for the Notre Dame football games. It was on hand for the first game against the University of Michigan in 1887 and has not missed a single home game since. The Notre Dame Band was celebrating its forty-first anniversary when that historic first game was played.[7]


Closeup of the Notre Dame band as they take the field to perform the halftime show at the 73rd annual Sugar Bowl

The Notre Dame Band has always been a very active organization. Its early purpose was apparently to lift the spirits of students and provide entertainment on special occasions. The Band has also been on hand to witness many highs and lows in American history. It played at the University's "Main Circle" as students left to join the armies both North and South during the American Civil War. The Band played at the circle whenever students left to fight in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and played a benefit concert for the victims of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.[8] The band has played around the country and around the world for countless concerts, masses, graduations, civic functions, bowl games, parades, athletic contests and many, many national championships. In recent years the Band has traveled to Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Southern California and Florida State. Bowl appearances have included the Fiesta Bowl, Gator Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Sun Bowl, and most recently the BCS National Championship Game.[9]

The Band of the Fighting Irish has also partnered with OK Go in the making of the composition and music video for "This Too Shall Pass", appearing throughout the majority of the video in ghillie suits.[10]

In May 2010, the Notre Dame Concert Band performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City; Regis Philbin conducted the Victory March.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ URL last accessed 2009-12-28 Loftus Indoor Sports Facility
  2. ^ Rehearsal Schedule Accessed 2013-11-22
  3. ^ Ensembles Accessed 2013-11-22
  4. ^ History Accessed 2013-11-22
  5. ^ Directors Accessed 2013-11-22
  6. ^ Lawrence Dwyer Accessed 2013-11-22
  7. ^ Band doesn't miss a game Accessed 2013-11-22
  8. ^ Kryk, John. Natural Enemies: Major College Football's Oldest, Fiercest Rivaly--Michigan vs. Notre Dame, (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publications), 247.
  9. ^ Bowl Appearances Accessed 2013-11-22
  10. ^ OK GO and Band partner up Accessed 2013-11-22
  11. ^ Carnegie Hall, where Regis Philbin conducted the Victory March Accessed 2013-11-22
  12. ^ Carnegie Hall, where Regis Philbin conducted the Victory March - Accessed 2013-11-22
  13. ^ Carnegie Hall, where Regis Philbin conducted the Victory March - Accessed 2013-11-22

External links

  • Official Site
  • Alumni Band Site
  • CSTV Traditions Site
  • Notre Dame Department of Music

Section websites

  • Notre Dame Drumline (NDDL)
  • Notre Dame Trumpets
  • Notre Dame Basses
  • Notre Dame Faltos
  • Notre Dame Baritones
  • Notre Dame Trombones
  • Notre Dame Saxes
  • Notre Dame Clarinets
  • Notre Dame Piccolos
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