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Marching band shares preparation for halftime shows

| Friday, September 27, 2019

Notre Dame fans flock from all over the country to attend home football games, both for the game itself and the experience of being on campus. Part of such experience is the marching band’s halftime show.

Each week, the marching band puts on a performance at halftime with a theme, demonstrated by music and choreography choices. 

Photo courtesy of Heather Gollatz-Dukeman
The Notre Dame marching band performs “Old Town Road” in the shape of a horse during the halftime show of the Sept. 14 home opener against New Mexico.

Assistant band director Sam Sanchez said head band director Dr. Ken Dye arranges most of the music. He said music picking for the season usually starts in May but isn’t finalized until early August. 

Sanchez said choosing the music is “an ongoing process” by the band staff. The directors often look to new charts but also try to do older music that other game attendees might also know, Sanchez said. 

“Some of the newer songs students know but the rest of the crowd may not,” Sanchez said. 

Band president, senior Jack Meloro said the themes vary. 

“They try to do a mix of pop hits, like current [music] and classic rock,” Meloro said. 

Sanchez said learning the music and choreography and then putting the two together is a building process. They first start with learning and rehearsing the music, and then they start plotting the sets for the actual marching, Sanchez said. 

“We try to do it really fast at first so everyone gets the flow of everything,” Sanchez said. “Then we go back and we try to repair whatever doesn’t look good.”

Meloro explained how the band members break into ranks to learn the sets during practice. 

“We break into ranks of four band members and within each rank there is a core band member, usually a junior or senior selected by the directors,” Meloro said. “It’s their responsibility to get their four people to where they need to go, and if everyone’s four people get to where they need to go it all comes together.”

Freshman Annemarie Foy said each band member has the music in front of them, so they don’t have to memorize. 

She also said learning the formations is fast-paced but effective. 

“We practice every day, so by the time the show comes around, we know [the show] pretty well,” Foy said. 

Sanchez said from the time starting a song to performing it at halftime, the band probably plays it about fifteen to twenty times. 

“Each time there are corrections being made and we discuss what needs to be improved,” Sanchez said. “It could be less for some songs and more for others.”

Meloro said with the three home games back to back in October, the band is done with learning the set for the Virginia game, and they have learned half of next week’s show, along with the music for the show after. 

“We’ll have around three shows going at a time,” Meloro said. 

Sanchez explained why the band continues to showcase picture formations, such as last week’s horse to the tune of Old Town Road. 

In the last twenty years, the marching band has focused on performing picture formations that the crowd can see, Sanchez said. 

“One of the reasons we did that is because a lot of bands got away from that in the ’70s through the ’90s,” Sanchez said. “We have tried to bring it back in the last twenty years as something the crowd can see and connect with.”

Sanchez did note not all songs lend themselves to picture formations, so they don’t try to force it.

Sanchez said there is no real secrecy about the marching band’s theme each home game day. 

“[There is] no real secrecy, but we hope people are surprised when they see the whole package,” he said.

The band will showcase their Beatles set this game day at the halftime show, he said.

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