Oct. 22, 2004
By Regina Grace Muscarello
Burr Ridge, Ill. Class of 2007
The Band of the Fighting Irish is perhaps most widely recognized as the ensemble that performs at the Bond Hall Concert on the Steps and during halftime at home football games. From the Friday afternoon march outs; to the playing of school songs in the stadium, to the post-game show, the Notre Dame Marching Band constitutes a very visible and important part of game day tradition. The influence and experience of the Notre Dame Band, however, extends far beyond the confines of the stadium.
This past May, I was very fortunate to have been included in a trip to New Zealand and Australia with a small group from the Band. The majority of our trip was spent in New Zealand, where we traveled southward from the busy metropolis of Auckland, to the thermal mud valleys of Rotorua, and finally, to the capital city of Wellington. Over the course of the first week, members of the tour group visited Sky Tower, explored the world-famous glowworm caves in Waitomo, traversed the country’s breathtaking landscape and experienced the native Maori culture. During its stay on the Northern Isle of New Zealand, the band gave five tremendous performances; however, the most poignant and memorable of these occurred in Hastings, where we performed with the Concord Band, a combined ensemble of young girls and boys from two local preparatory schools. Not only did the program consist of traditional concert repertoire, but the combined groups performed both the national anthem of New Zealand and the Notre Dame Victory March, conveying the great spirit of two different cultures and cementing a bond of friendship that will continue far into the future.
The two days we spent with the students of the Lindisfarne College and the Hastings School for Girls were both culturally enriching and spiritually fulfilling. The hospitality we received was unparalleled; our hosts prepared traditional meals for us, gave us a tour of the dormitories and classrooms at the school, and greeted us with a bagpipe procession and a performance of the Haka, the traditional welcome dance of the Maori. Perhaps the most remarkable sight was that of our hosts gathering in front of our buses as we departed, waving and shouting their goodbyes until we were well out of sight. The warmth, enthusiasm, and hospitality of these students was so touching and heartwarming and very reminiscent of the throngs of people that line the campus streets on a football weekend.
After the week in New Zealand, the band departed for Australia, where the trip culminated in a sold-out performance at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House. The Band shared the stage with a prominent student ensemble and Australian trumpet legend James Morrison. At the conclusion of this concert, the band performed selections from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, composed by Notre Dame’s own Dr. Kenneth Dye, and, of course, our fight song. The image of an ecstatic, cheering crowd upon the display of the Australian flag at the front of the stage, as well as an entire audience clapping to the Notre Dame Victory March, is one that will remain forever engrained in our minds. The entire experience extremely overwhelming, not only due to the beauty and grandeur of the concert hall in which we performed, but also because the Notre Dame students came to realize that we were a part of something much greater than ourselves – a vast community of musicians extending to the other side of the globe who shared a common love for the great power of music. Thus, our performances in both countries proved enriching and entertaining for the citizens of those countries, but they also served to bring us closer to the appreciation and understanding of this global music culture.
The impact of this historic trip was not limited to that final concert in Sydney. Rather, it marked the beginning of the Band’s foray into foreign study opportunity and outreach in two different countries. During the summer of 2005, students will be able to spend six weeks in New Zealand at the Hastings preparatory schools, giving an introduction to the American concert bands, jazz ensembles, and marching bands. They, in turn, will be immersed in the culture of the Maori people, learning native vocals and the construction and performance of ancient instruments. The band also has contacts in Jamaica, where students will be bringing donated instruments to underprivileged areas of the country and instructing them in music and performance.
This display of cultural exchange and enrichment that began during our trip in May, as well as the continued desire to share our gifts and talents with those in the global music community, is the true embodiment of the Notre Dame spirit.