Bagpipe Band enters 15th season of entertaining fans
Megan Valley | Friday, September 25, 2015
Wednesday nights, the unmistakeable sound of bagpipes echoes out of the back of Washington Hall. The Notre Dame Bagpipe Band is preparing for Saturday home football games.
The band currently consists of 13 members, according to sophomore band pipe sergeant Tyler Johnson. And while the band may contain differing levels of experience, the passion that radiates off each of the members, decked out in their kilts and belts, as they lead the Irish into the stadium with their rendition of “Scotland the Brave” is undeniable.
“We have nine pipers and four drummers,” Johnson said. “Most bagpipers have experience, but I do some teaching with new people who want to learn. I don’t think any of the drummers have any experience with bagpipe bands.”
Sophomore Allegra Wallingford, who plays snare drum for the band, said she joined this year because she loved the idea of being a part of a Notre Dame tradition.
“I joined because I love playing music and wanted a way to do that while I’m here,” she said. “I also really enjoy being part of something very traditional and playing in bagpipe band makes me feel very connected to Notre Dame.”
The band’s roots can date back to the early 1950s, according to their website, when the Irish Guard was began as a bagpiper unit in the Notre Dame Marching Band. But the bagpipes did not fare well in the cold and were abandoned by the Irish Guard until the 1990s, when Paul Harren formed a band and started teaching students how to play. The band first performed at football games during the 2001 season.
Sending off the football team to meet their opponents isn’t the only thing the band does on game day, Johnson said. The band’s Saturdays consist of several short performances throughout the day.
“For typical football weekend with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, we’ll start at 11:30 a.m.,” he said. “We’ll play a fifteen minute concert in front of the dorm, we’ll play marching through LaFun and then we’ll do the player walk.”
Johnson said playing for a group that’s so well-known and beloved by the Notre Dame community has been a lot of fun.
“I’ve been playing for twelve years — I’m the pipe sergeant of the band,” he said. “So I’ll do all the tuning and some logistic work, stuff like that. I play with a band back home, but on game days, it’s probably the best crowd I ever play for. It’s just insane the number of people who crowd around, especially because most people hate the bagpipes.”
In addition to football game days, the band plays in a variety of other concerts through the year. They’ve even performed in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, Johnson said.
“My experience has been pretty cool, being able to play for so many people and having such a receptive crowd,” he said.