Band of the Fighting Irish A Hit in LA

It had been in the planning for literally years.

The entire University of Notre Dame Marching Band would, for the first time, be making a historic trip to Los Angeles for the Nov. 29 game with Southern Cal.

It’s a trip requiring considerable expense and logistics – flying nearly 400 band members and staff to a major metro area, then getting them to several pre-game stops before arriving at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

In most years, the Band of the Fighting Irish takes one to two trips during the regular season. Typically, the Band travels to games at Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State, returning the same day. Recent seasons have also included longer trips to Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Penn State.

The trip to Los Angeles would be something else.

And, indeed, the performance of the ND Band was truly special.

In addition to a spirited pre-game show, the Band played several “all-time favorites” at halftime, concluding with “American Pie” and the moving “Chevy at the levy” with the Irish Guard producing clouds of “exhaust” to a roaring crowd. The final formation — an outline of the United States and the fluttering “stars and stripes” – drew a thunderous roar from the largely USC crowd.

Notre Dame’s director of bands, Dr. Ken Dye, back at his alma mater, and his staff and the ND musicians had done it again. Through the rest of the weekend, countless observers gave the Band of the Fighting Irish kudos.

[By contrast, the USC Band performed a rather strange and classless halftime show. Instead of anything resembling a welcome to the ND Band, USC and its booming, over-dramatic public address announcer reminded fans that it had been traveling to games at Notre Dame for the past 35 years, then recounted numerous Trojan victories during that time, perversely laying them at the feet of the Irish band. It concluded with a sarcastic tagline, “To the Notre Dame Band, thanks for the memories.” The show received scant applause; even USC fans had to be uncomfortable with its tone.]

But the Band of the Fighting Irish wasn’t through. As the Irish football team continued to stumble on the field, the Band never gave up, never relented.  Each break in the action, it played as loudly and spirited as ever.

The seniors reminded one another:  “We don’t want any TV cameras on us catching us sitting down, or being discouraged.”

So they played on, and played hard. Unmistakable to those in attendance was the fact that the volume on the Coliseum’s Jumbotron kept increasing, finally to ear-splitting levels, in a futile attempt to drown out Ken Dye’s troops.

But they played on, with a spirit befitting the tradition of “America’s first university band….and the best.” Conductors from the legendary Joseph Casasanta on down through the years would have been proud.

One wag was moved to observe that they were “a Band in search of a football team.”

During what became a football performance to forget, the Notre Dame Band reminded us of so much to be proud of:

Nearly 400 kids not on scholarship, but working together for the love of their school and their favorite acvitity; kids who give two to three hours each weekday evening to Band, who contribute untold hours of community service through BankLink, who gave up Thanksgiving weekend with their families to fly cross-country twice in less than 48 hours, arriving via the red-eye and bus ride from O’Hare back on campus Sunday morning.

To the Band of the Fighting Irish, a testament to the historic, fighting spirit of Notre Dame:  We’re proud of you! Thanks for showing everyone our best side.