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SMC students benefit from band membership

Molly Lamping | Thursday, September 27, 2007

Founded in 1845, the Band of the Fighting Irish was all male until 1970, when it first accepted Saint Mary’s students – two years before the University itself became co-educational.

Today, College students are still full members of the band, commuting to the Notre Dame campus for practice and games.

In 1970, former band director Robert O’Brien wanted more instruments that “women stereotypically played, like flute and clarinet and, in the concert band, oboe,” said Assistant Director of Bands Larry Dwyer.

The first woman to join the band, however, was a Sousaphone player named Rosemary Crock.

“For two years, Saint Mary’s students were the only women members of the band,” Dwyer said. “Those women were pioneers in a co-educational band two years before the University itself became co-educational.”

This year, there are 43 Saint Mary’s students in the band, which is more than 10 percent of the band’s total size. These members underwent the same audition process as Notre Dame band members.

“They do everything everyone else does,” Dwyer said. “It requires a little extra dedication on the part of Saint Mary’s women just because they have [a commute] and whatnot. The band building and practice field are about as far away from Saint Mary’s as you can get.”

College band members, like juniors Jessica Sheehan and Sharon Rhode, use various modes of transportation to get to practice.

“We bike over [to practice] everyday,” Sheehan said.

Relying on College-provided transportation takes an time commitment, Rhode said.

“If you want to ride the trolley, you either have to go incredibly early or risk being late,” she said. “I leave Saint Mary’s 45 minutes before practice starts.”

The commute and extended time commitment do not detract from the experience, Rhode and Sheehan said.

“It’s interesting to be on the field,” Rhode said. “At halftime, we’re standing behind the players and you can hear it when the coaches are yelling at someone or congratulating someone.”

Sheehan enjoys the close contact the band has with players and coaches.

“Post-game, I stand right behind the players and coaches while they sing the Alma Mater, which is really cool,” she said.

Band member Katherine Putz, a Saint Mary’s student, said students from the College and University lose their different school associations at band activities. Students from Holy Cross are also eligble for band membership.

“Once you’re part of the section, you’re a saxophone, not a Saint Mary’s student or a Notre Dame student,” she said.

That surprises band members from other colleges, she said.

“When we have visiting bands and they find out you’re from Saint Mary’s, they’re kind of confused,” Putz said. “You have to kind of explain that we’re sister schools, but that makes us unique.”