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The tradition of the band

Andrew DeBerry | Thursday, December 4, 2003

Their music blares through the JACC for pep rallies. They play at the Friday Midnight Drum Circle for students only to march around at 7:30 a.m. to wake them up. After the “Concert on the Steps,” they march through the crowds then pour onto the stadium field before 80,000 fans. The Band of the Fighting Irish is a phenomenon for all to see. But outside of the public eye, the band has an inside spirit and many traditions that few may know about.A distinctive enthusiasm surges through the various leaders of the band. At the band meeting on game day morning, the directors impart words of motivation, advice and appreciation. The president or drum major gives a final message, and the officers lead a pep rally specifically for the band members. Whether at home or away, the members are led by their chaplain in bowing their heads to God in prayer.Senior trumpeter Dave Cieslak thrived on the opportunity as President to work with the officers on the important tradition of writing pre-game skits, which make fun of everything from Beyonce to bloopers from practice.This spirit extends into the band through a deep loyalty to one’s section. Senior trumpeter Francine Barley describes each section as “a family within the family.” Before the pep rally, some order pizza together, dress a certain way or cheer about their section being the best. Tuba player and Holy Cross freshman Isaac Ruiz is committed to his section simply because “it’s fun.” There are traditions that are known only to those in a particular section. But with a deep loyalty comes a spirit of competition.I asked different band members which section was the best. Cieslak declares his trumpet section the best because when they play, “it sounds like a whole other band starts playing.”But senior drummer and band Treasurer Lauren Fowler affirms that the drumline is obviously the best because “it helps bring the greatest student body alive with the spirit that can only be found at Notre Dame.”However, senior Bonnie Leigh Cockerill will always remain committed to the falto players – who won “Section of the Year” – because of their goofiness, close friendship and tradition of Total Falto Domination.Aside from the rivalry, there is a united spirit throughout the band as a whole. They define to the community what being a part of Notre Dame means. When Fowler first came to campus, she didn’t know anyone. But after making the drumline the first weekend, she immediately found herself surrounded with 30 new family members that have become dear to her.Cockerill notes that the band, cheerleaders, Irish Guard and football team all act as “one school, one team.” She says that the band is very appreciative of the student body. Members get really excited when students cheer when they set down their instruments to dance or when students go wild singing “Livin’ on a Prayer.”The band comes together after practice every Friday to sing the Alma Mater. Some play for the football team to show their support. Members meet up for band picnics, sport competitions and dances. They become best friends, roommates, romantic couples and some even get married. To see how unified the band is, Barley encourages people to see how an obstacle or tragedy pulls the group together. She notes that “we care for each other and love each other because that’s what being a family is all about.” Cieslak also says that the band has grown together a lot in the last few years as a family. He thinks that members really take to heart the idea of “One band, one family.”Only a group with this kind of spirit can remain as dedicated as the Notre Dame band. Their 360-plus members practice over 12 hours a week. Only they can extend the tradition of America’s oldest university band, which played at the first Notre Dame football match against Michigan in 1887 and at each of the 539 home games since.Only a group with their intense enthusiasm can produce the innovative half-time shows at each game. What other band has the inventiveness to spread out the American flag together with the Michigan State band after Sept. 11, land a jet on an aircraft carrier or play video game tunes from yesteryear? Who else can get the students roaring so loudly that they distract the sports announcers on television?There is a special power at our University. Students leave with a passion to make professional contributions, raise strong families and help in their communities. But this community would struggle to be unified if it weren’t for its unparalleled spirit. Many thanks to band members for their dedication to the Notre Dame family and for showing us how to find power in one unified spirit.

Andrew DeBerry is a fifth year senior majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in Middle Eastern studies. His column normally appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected] and encourages students to see the University band in concert in Washington Hall Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and Monday at 7:30 p.m.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.