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Band plays in front of Capitol

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Instead of Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome in the background of its performance, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building flanked the Notre Dame Marching Band this past weekend.

The band played a set of patriotic songs and a few of its popular hits in front of the Capitol on Saturday as part of the football team’s neutral site game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Band Director Kenneth Dye said.

“To see the band standing there in front of the Capitol with the Irish Guard in their red uniforms, with the American flag in the background — it was a pretty special picture,” Dye said.

The show took place the day after Veteran’s Day, and the band played songs such as “God Bless America” and a medley of military service academy songs to honor those who have served our country, Dye said.

“Being Veteran’s Day weekend, we decided to focus on recognizing the veterans,” he said.

The band spent three weeks rehearsing for the performance, Dye said, as there were a lot of strict rules for the venue.

“We weren’t allowed to play ahead of time,” Dye said. “You get a start time of precisely 12 noon, and you have to end by 12:45 p.m. because they don’t want to think that it is some kind of a rally.”

The band also would have had to move the concert if Congress had called a special session, he said.

This was not the first time the band has played at a famous public setting. As a part of last year’s neutral site game, the band performed in the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

“Times Square was a backdrop with a lot of people,” Dye said. “There were taxis honking their horns, there were police sirens and there were the video boards and lights going on.”

Dye said the setting at the Capitol had a different feel.

“In the Capitol, it was much more stately and solemn,” he said. “It was more patriotic.”

Dye said the audience at the Capitol was very supportive and enthusiastic.

“We got a terrific reaction [from the audience] because most of them were Notre Dame fans,” he said. “They really appreciated the setting. Bringing part of Notre Dame in front of the Capitol building was really special for the alumni, the parents and our students.”

Sophomore piccolo Katherine Morrow said the band enjoys trips to different game sites because they allow its members to bond and share special memories together.

“It’s trips like this that really bring us together as a band family,” Morrow said.

She said performing in front of the Capital was “thrilling” and a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Sophomore trombone Andrew Marino said the performance was one of the band’s best.

“It was surreal just looking out at the National Mall and seeing the Washington Monument in front of you and seeing all the famous historic buildings,” Marino said. “I thought we played to the occasion, and the amount of people there and playing in front of the Capitol building made us play really well.”

Even though the band was 600 miles from Notre Dame Stadium, Morrow said the experience was familiar.

“It felt like being in the Notre Dame Stadium, the reaction that we got from the crowd,” Morrow said. “They loved it.”

Dye said the band concert was a perfect kickoff to the football weekend.

“[The band members] did a terrific job,” he said. “They worked really hard, and it came across very effectively. It set the tone for the whole weekend.”