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Heinz Field is first of bands’ two season trips

Kelly Meehan | Friday, September 2, 2005

Notre Dame fans heading to Pittsburgh this weekend won’t be the only ones trying to turn Heinz Field into a home game atmosphere – the Band of the Fighting Irish chose the game as one of its two road trips this fall.

The 380-member marching band will be pulling out of Notre Dame at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and leaving Pittsburgh immediately after the Saturday night game to return to campus at approximately 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

“We are very excited to start off the new season and to support our team by doing our best to recreate the essence of a Notre Dame home game,” assistant director of bands Larry Dwyer said.

The decision to send the band to the Pittsburgh game was made after the directors analyzed which away games were within a reasonable traveling distance and which games would be most beneficial to attend to boost student and team spirit, said Dwyer, who will be accompanying the band to Pittsburgh, along with director of bands Ken Dye and assistant directors of bands Samuel Sanchez, Kelly May, Matt Merten and Emmett O’Leary.

The band is spending part of its allotted funding to drive to Pittsburgh for the game and will use the remainder of its funds to attend the Purdue game in October.

Hundreds of fans will be anticipating the arrival of the band in Pittsburgh, said Susan Darin Hagan, administrator of the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Pittsburgh.

“[The Pittsburgh Alumni Club is] so appreciative of the Band coming. We realize that it is a massive and expensive undertaking,” Hagan said. “We alone will spend over $6,000 on what we need to provide for them, which doesn’t even cover transportation.

“But we feel it is money well spent. The ND Marching Band can really generate a lot of spirit, and that’s the way to ensure a victory.”

The Pittsburgh Alumni Club will be hosting a 500-person tailgate on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh. Prior to the start of the game, tailgaters will be entertained by a small group of Irish marching band members known as The Sorin Band.

“I’m sure the sounds of the ND Fight Song will annoy the Pitt fans trying to tailgate around Heinz Field,” Hagan said.

After the decision was made to send the band to the Pittsburgh game, it was uncertain how long the band would be able to perform during the halftime show due to Pittsburgh’s original halftime plans to honor several of the Panthers’ former football greats.

When members of the Pittsburgh Alumni Club learned of the plan, they became very concerned and sent letters and e-mails to the University of Pittsburgh asking for a longer performance time for the band.

The band staff worked together in cooperation with both teams’ athletic departments to ensure the band was able to play for a fair amount of time, while still allowing Pitt to honor its former players.

Initially told it would only be able to perform a two-minute halftime show, the band is now permitted to perform a five-minute halftime show.

During the halftime performance the band will be performing the songs “Roundabout” and the Notre Dame fight song. Five minutes is fair playing time considering the visiting band is typically allotted six minutes of playtime, Dwyer said.

“I think the whole band is looking forward to the trip,” junior baritone player Dan Allen said. “We are ready to get out onto the field and get the season underway. Despite the long trip, it will be good to get to know the new members of our sections a little bit better.”