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Notre Dame band members strike chord with concert and connect generations


As part of their fall break of doing service projects in the Indianapolis area, members of the University of Notre Dame marching band perform a special concert Oct. 17 for more than 100 people at A Caring Place, the adult day care program of Catholic Charities Indianapolis. (CNS photo/John Shaughnessy, The Criterion)

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INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Annie Hill and Allie Braschler usually perform in front of 80,000 cheering, clapping and screaming fans in one of the most well-known football stadiums in the world.

Yet on a recent sun-kissed Wednesday afternoon, the two University of Notre Dame juniors joined 47 other members of the school's marching band in a special performance for just over 100 people at A Caring Place, the adult day care program of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

And even though the 49 musicians represented just a small part of the band's regular 385 members, their playing of the "Notre Dame Victory March" and other Irish favorites blared triumphantly through Fairview Presbyterian Church -- where A Caring Place is located -- bringing the elderly and developmentally disabled adults to their feet.

The mini-concert marked a resounding climax to what had been a trip of the heart -- as the 49 band members set aside four days of their weeklong fall break in mid-October to do service projects in Indianapolis.

They helped feed the poor through Gleaners Community Food Bank, create an outdoor walkway at a public school, and assist with projects at Central Catholic and Holy Cross Central elementary schools, which are Notre Dame ACE Academies. ACE stands for Alliance for Catholic Education, which provides teaching fellows and other outreach to Catholic schools with limited resources.

As the service commissioners for the Notre Dame band, Hill and Braschler led the efforts.

"When you're in college, it's easy to think just about yourself, your school work and your friends," said Braschler, a saxophone player from South Haven, Michigan. "It's nice to put the focus on other people. Members of the marching band are hardworking, kind people who want to give back."

"This is one of the first times we've brought our instruments with us on the service trip," noted Hill, a piccolo player from Stillwater, Minnesota. "Our music is one of the greatest gifts we can give. To share the spirit of Notre Dame is what we do best."

The concert thrilled Amy Sczesny, program director of A Caring Place.

"First, everyone knows of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, so who would not want the great opportunity to host the band at their facility?" she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "Second, for our folks, music is a great means of communication. Our folks love music of any type, and you'll see their faces light up when the first note is played."

She also wanted to add another special note to the concert, so she invited students from nearby St. Thomas Aquinas School for the performance -- to create an atmosphere that joined several different generations.

"It was invigorating," Sczesny said. "We do great things here, and this concert is just one of those great things. Programs like this keep our participants active in -- and with -- the community. Our folks were all smiling, and the students, too."

The band members also savored that experience.

"It was really wonderful to see all their smiles and their signs," Braschler said. "It's nice to see people of different generations, to bring joy to their day. And it brings joy to us."

As the event came to a close, Sczesny requested an encore performance of the "Notre Dame Victory March."

Almost immediately, the church rocked again with the school's fight song, with everyone in the audience smiling and clapping.

"Every time we play the fight song, it can be someone's first time hearing it and someone's last time hearing it, so we never go through the motions with it," Braschler noted. "It was cool to have the youngest and oldest together here. That's the power of music -- to bring people together."

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Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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