by: Matt Greene
Have you ever been a part of something bigger than yourself? If you have, then you know that it is truly one of the most spectacular, surreal, and amazing feelings you will experience. To be part of the reason why many people will laugh, cry, and smile because of what your group represents and to feel those effects is something that can only make you reflect and grin from ear to ear. Fortunately for me, I got to experience this for four years of my life.
From 2012-2016, I had the fortunate privilege and honor of being a trumpet player in the Notre Dame Marching Band: The Band of the Fighting Irish. I attended Holy Cross College for my freshman year before transferring to Notre Dame for my sophomore year. A big thanks to the band for opening up spots every year to students at Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s College (both of which are also in Notre Dame, IN) which was how I got to carry out a dream of mine.
In the Fall of 2002, my oldest sister began attending Notre Dame. As a little kid of eight years old, I was drawn to music. I was playing the piano although “playing” is definitely a loose term. I did not like to practice, and I was never really motivated to advance any skills. However, I went to a Notre Dame Football game, and I saw the ND Band perform at their Concert on the Steps on Gameday. I was so enamored with the band that I realized I wanted to be a member of that group someday. Two years later, I began playing an instrument in my grade school’s band. I chose trumpet, and the rest is history.
In my time as a member of the Band of the Fighting Irish, I learned so much about the history, tradition, and greatness of the band and the University of Notre Dame. I was a lifelong fan of the university, but the band had so many intricacies, traditions, and connections that I still had a lot to learn. From the very beginning, we were told of the band’s motto: Tradition, Excellence, Family.
Tradition is a word that is used to describe what your family does on holidays and what schools and sports teams have as a part of their history. However, the tradition of the ND Band is one that boasts the oldest continuous collegiate marching band in the United States. There is also the tradition of their following and supporting the Notre Dame Football team. Each instrument section in the band has their own fun traditions too, but they all play into what the band has meant to past generations and what it will mean to future generations.
Excellence implies a sense of perfection. There is a higher standard that one wants to aspire towards if they want to be labeled as “excellent.” That was what the ND Band aspired to be - excellent. That was a goal of the whole program and group. While a halftime show might have faltered in some of the ways the formations looked or the sound might’ve come out flat, we knew there was still the excellence of Notre Dame and us as a group. We wanted to represent this institution we all called home. We were at least going to be excellent together and excellent in community.
Family means many things to many people. I have learned in my time at Notre Dame, in the band, and even beyond in my adult life that you absolutely don’t need to be blood to be family. Your family includes people that you love and that love you unconditionally. They might get on your nerves and mess up in numerous ways, but there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your family. I also had the fortune of going on multiple cross-country bus trips to away games, so we had that bonding experience common to most families as well. You wouldn't allow anyone to make fun of your family, and we truly shared that mentality amongst all of us. A family also includes many thoughts, opinions, and people to come together to form a bond of love, relationship, care, and success. That was the Notre Dame Band. I found so many friends that became family in my life, and I will never take that for granted.
So, as I reflect on my time in the ND Band many times, I always remember that I was truly a part of something bigger than myself. That is a humbling and incredible experience that everyone should encounter at least once in their lives. It puts events in your life as well as your talents and how you share those talents into perspective. With tradition, excellence, and family at the forefront of what the Notre Dame Band preached, we were set up for success and we knew that we could share the joys of music and the joys of Notre Dame with all who saw us perform. I owe much in my life to the Notre Dame Band, and I am better for being a member of that wonderful organization.
Matt Greene is a proud 2016 graduate of the University of Notre Dame who currently lives in South Bend, IN, but is a native of the Metro Detroit area. He is a rabid Notre Dame sports fan as well as a Detroit sports fan. Give him an IPA, a shot of Irish whiskey, or an Old Fashioned any day of the week and he will gladly drink them. As a side hustle, he helps write for the Notre Dame SB Nation Blog, One Foot Down. Check them out at: onefootdown.com, and you can find his other articles at www.onefootdown.com/authors/matt-greene. Also, follow Matt on Twitter @mattygOFD