Band prepares to travel to New York for Shamrock Series
Tom Naatz | Friday, November 16, 2018
A constant bedrock of any Notre Dame home game is the Band of the Fighting Irish. Whether they are rallying the Irish faithful at a pep rally, entertaining visitors with a trumpet concert under the dome of main building or providing some midnight entertainment at Drummer’s Circle, the band is a key part of the Notre Dame football experience.
That reality does not change when the Notre Dame home game doesn’t actually take place at Notre Dame. This weekend, the band will travel to New York and participate in the Shamrock Series through a series of concerts and other events in addition to their performance at the football game itself.
For a standard home game, logistical preparations begin in earnest in the week leading up to the game, assistant band director Matt Merten said.
“If we start from the beginning, the planning for a game starts in the summer, just for picking the music, starting the drill. Then a lot of times what equipment goes with the show, if there’s props of any type, gets selected at that point. In the stadium we have some amplified sound, so there’s some equipment that gets set up early in the season — as far as speakers and cables and things like that,” he said. “A lot of that gets stored from game-to-game and removed for each game. … We deal with similar security restrictions [as the crowd], so we have to find the right times to make sure we’re moving equipment and the right gates and contacting the right people and working together as a team with everyone at the University to make sure the game experience is safe for everyone.”
The band also participates in the weekly meeting that takes place the week before individual games. This meeting, Merten said, involves individuals from the Gameday Operations Office, the football team, ushers, grounds crew and others to make sure everyone is “on the same page.”
The band will travel to New York by bus, departing campus at 8 p.m. on Thursday and arriving in New York in the morning; they will play a series of events over the course of the weekend, including a concert in New York’s Bryant Park, a drummer’s circle at Rockefeller Center at 10 p.m. Friday and a Notre Dame Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. One hundred band members will ride the subway from the band’s Manhattan hotel to Yankee Stadium on Saturday, in full uniform and with their instruments.
Merten and Donelle Flick, the band’s operations manager, explained that planning for the game is somewhat complicated, given enhanced security protocol in New York and at Yankee Stadium.
“They don’t like suitcases,” Flick said.
Merten said the band had been preparing extensively to deal with the new security challenges.
“We have to figure out everything before we get on the bus. Once you get on the bus, there’s no turning back. We had to figure out what the security was going to be like ahead of time, how we needed to bring everything into the stadium, when we could do that, what parts of the stadium you can go to,” he said. “There’s transportation to the city, but once you get there, how do you get to these different events? Are you going to walk there? Are you going to bus there? Are you going to take the subway?”
Yankee Stadium needed to know the band’s detailed plans several months ago, Flick said.
“Yankee Stadium requested an equipment list a couple months ago. Everything we’re bringing into the stadium had to be approved,” Flick said. “We had to send pictures of what it’s being moved in, and then tell them exactly when it’s coming into the stadium and how long. As soon as we’re done with it, it goes back out to the bus.”
While there are a lot of moving parts to the band’s travel plans, Merten said the band’s presence dovetails nicely with the Shamrock Series’ goal of combining the Notre Dame atmosphere with the host city.
“Every Shamrock [Series] is different,” he said. “What I think Notre Dame tries to do is bring a little bit of Notre Dame to whatever the location is, but also have that location be uniquely that location. So if the Shamrock Series is in San Antonio, it definitely has a San Antonio flavor to it. When we were in San Antonio … two years ago, we did concerts on boats in their Riverwalk area. When we were in Washington, D.C. we had a concert in front of the Capitol. No matter where you’re at, it’s a combination of Notre Dame and whatever that location is uniquely known for. It is pretty fun to see these iconic places blend with Notre Dame. I think part of the grand vision from the people who organize the overall thing is to have the band kind of be one of the big representatives of the University, because we can bring … the sights and sounds of Notre Dame, which can be in different places.”