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Meet the Notre Dame Bagpipe Band

NOTRE DAME, Ind.- It’s the sound of tradition from a band that’s been the heartbeat of Fighting Irish football for decades.

If you walk onto campus on game day Saturdays, you’re sure to hear the distinct sounds of bagpipes whether you are by the Golden Dome or by Notre Dame Stadium.

“The game day experience is unreal, we get to play in front of the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” said Tyler Johnson, a senior at Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame Bagpipe Band can trace its roots all the way back to 1949, when the Irish Guard was formed as a bagpiping unit in the University’s Marching Band.

They quickly learned that bagpipes don’t behave well in South Bend’s frigid temperatures. The cold air kills the bagpipe’s reeds.

The pipers were dismissed from the Irish Guard in 1954.

In 1991, a student rekindled the sounds by forming what is now known as the Bagpipe Band.

“We didn’t have uniforms, we couldn’t afford bagpipes, we each had our own set,” said Dominic Vachon, one of the band’s faculty advisors.

The band grew over time, gaining support from the University and alumni, then added more students and another faculty advisor.

“One the students in my first class found out I played and said they needed a faculty advisor,” said Dan Gezelter, a professor and faculty advisor.

When the group re-emerged, their uniform was khaki’s and t-shirts because they didn’t have the rights to the official Notre Dame tartan, that is until the early 2000’s.

“Then a big jump happened in the band when Notre Dame said we want you to wear the Notre Dame tartan,” Vachon said.

Fast forward to today, the band rehearses in Washington Hall on Wednesday nights and during every home game, crowds flood to the front of the Golden Dome to hear them perform.

It wasn’t until 2011 when another game day tradition formed. The pipers joined “The Player’s Walk,” all thanks to Brian Kelly.

It’s a small unit, but a once in a lifetime opportunity for students and faculty to come together to be a part of history.

You can find more information about the band and their performances HERE.


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