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Band bids farewell to assistant director

John Cameron | Thursday, April 28, 2011

The recent Blue-Gold Game marked the last time Assistant Band Director Emmett O’Leary would lead the Marching Band in the “greatest of all University fight songs,” the “Notre Dame Victory March.”

On March 15, O’Leary announced he will take leave at the end of the spring 2011 semester to pursue a Ph.D. in music education at Arizona State University after seven years in his position at Notre Dame.

“The highlight [of my time here] has just been being able to be a part of this place, this University. We all talk about what a privilege it is to be a student or a member of the faculty here, and it’s totally true,” he said. “It’s been the privilege of my life to be able to serve on staff here.”

Rene Rosas will replace O’Leary as the assistant band director for the 2011-2012 school year.

O’Leary said the best part of his job was the excitement surrounding the first game day each year when the band ushered in the new football season.

“Probably the biggest rush for me every time is the first game of the year when you hear the fight song, the victory march, when we do our first game-time march,” he said.

O’Leary, a graduate of the University of Idaho, said working with the band gave him the opportunity to be a part of the Notre Dame tradition, even though he did not attend the University as a student.

“There’s a time when we’re in the practice field and you hear the band and look back and see the Stadium with the Dome and Basilica in the background, and it’s one of those ‘I’m really here’ moments,” he said. “That’s always really special.”

As Assistant Band Director, O’Leary served as a co-director for the University Band, Symphonic Winds, Brass Ensemble and Varsity Band, and was the director for the Tuba-Euphonium Choir.

Band members were informed of Rosas’ appointment via email Thursday. A graduate of the University of Texas and the University of Illinois, Rosas led marching bands at the University of Florida and Illinois State University, according to an email sent to band members.

The email stated Rosas has already begun working with the flute and horn choirs at Notre Dame. O’Leary said he felt Rosas would succeed as assistant director once he officially begins work with the band after the spring semester.

“I’m completely confident he’s going to do a great job. He’s extraordinarily qualified and a great person,” O’Leary said. “He’ll be a great addition.”

Band president Michael Schwind said the band was ready to welcome Rosas to the mix but would find it difficult to see O’Leary go.

“I’m sure we’ll do fine. I think Mr. Rosas is a good fit for the band,” Schwind said. “But it definitely won’t be the same.”

Band members were hit hard by O’Leary’s announcement, Schwind said.

“When [O’Leary] sent out the email saying he was taking his leave, everyone I talked to was really upset,” Schwind said. “We all love him a lot.”

O’Leary was well liked and went out of his way to ensure each member of the band enjoyed his or her experience, Schwind said.

“[O’Leary] always saw himself as the one who cracked down, who laid down the law, but we all saw him as the fun-loving guy who cares so much for the band,” Schwind said. “He put in the extra time and effort to make sure everyone enjoyed band … he really cared about the students and how they were enjoying the band experience.”