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Band holds annual plaiding ceremony

Liz Harter | Friday, September 5, 2008

Tailgating, watching the football players head to the stadium after the team Mass, buying steak sandwiches from the Knights of Columbus on South Quad. Students and fans in town for the Notre Dame home opener against San Diego State have a lot of entertainment opportunities vying for their attention before the 3:30 p.m. kick-off.

If tradition is what catches their interest though, the Irish faithful can attend the Band of the Fighting Irish’s plaiding ceremony, which will take place before the traditional concert on the steps in front of Bond Hall at 1:25 Saturday.

At the ceremony the senior members will present plaids to the first year members of the band to complete their uniform.

After the seniors present their plaids they receive a special senior plaid that is distinguished by the gold cording along its edges from a family member or friend.

“It’s a way to honor the new band members for their first home game, and a way to recognize the seniors at the beginning of their final year with the band,” assistant director of bands Larry Dwyer said.

While the plaiding is just for first year and senior band members, Dwyer said the entire band will be in attendance along with a large audience to witness the ceremony.

The plaiding ceremony began in 2002 when the band first started to wear the navy blue uniforms they wear today. The plaid, however, has been a part of the uniform since the 1970s when it was confirmed by the Tartan Advisory Committee in the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, Scotland to be a distinctive design not associated with any clan in Scotland.

When it was confirmed that the plaid was original to Notre Dame, the University adopted the blue design as the official plaid. It has since been trademarked and copyrighted which prohibits anyone outside the Irish Guard or the band from wearing it.

“[It] is a unique part of the Notre Dame band uniform,” Dwyer said. “It gives our band a distinctively Irish appearance.”

Each of the colors in the plaid symbolizes a different aspect of the Notre Dame community. The blue and gold in the design are Notre Dame’s colors; the green is for the Fighting Irish; the red signifies the Church and the Holy Cross fathers who founded the University; and black outlines the design.

While the band staff chooses which senior member will plaid the new members, the seniors can choose anyone they want to be a part of the ceremony, though Dwyer said they typically choose a family member or friend.

Senior saxophone player Katie Putz said she has been looking forward to this ceremony since her first year in the band.

“They show us the senior plaids the first day in band,” she said. “It’s really exciting to finally get to wear one.”

Senior bass player Joe Thompson said he was especially excited about plaiding a new member of the band.

“When I was a freshman I didn’t really appreciate it, but I imagine it’ll be a lot more emotional this year,” he said.

He said he thinks the ceremony is an important way to show appreciation for the seniors who have been in band for a number of years. Thomson, who will be plaided by one of his parents said he knows that the ceremony is an honor, said he thinks the family and invited guests who are asked to participate get more emotional than the band members during the event.

“We’re up there every weekend during concert on the steps,” he said. “For them it’s something different and special.”

Putz – who has asked a fellow Saint Mary’s student to plaid her because her family, who live in New Mexico, won’t be attending this game – said she’s happy she gets to choose who will be taking part in the ceremony with her.

“As a senior I get to choose anyone I like to be a part of the concert on the steps,” she said. “A lot of us choose someone who might not be in band. It’s someone who has been there through all the hardships and fun times of band and now they get to be a part of the band.”