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As the college football season approaches I think how Band Alumni of Notre Dame (B.A.N.D.) are invited about every four years to participate in a band reunion at a football game.

It’s a wonderful experience involving about 600 band alumni from throughout the country who get the opportunity to march and play with the regular 400-plus members of the “Band of the Fighting Irish” at halftime. It creates a spectacular assemblage of more than 1,000 musicians.

After a music rehearsal on Friday afternoon and a social get-together that evening, alumni band members meet early on game day to work out marching details, discovering their knees and lips aren’t what they used to be. It’s a nostalgic experience, however, to look down the trumpet rank where I’ve been assigned and realize it’s mostly the same bandsmen I marched with nearly 60 years ago. (Notre Dame was not co-ed until 1972).

Around noon, band alumni gather near the Administration Building – N.D.’s Golden Dome – in preparation for the march to the stadium. The alumni group is so large we have to form into two bands to allow the drummers to keep everyone in step, and be able to follow the directions of the drum majors leading the bands and signaling what school songs to play. Curiously, over the years, the distance from the Dome to the stadium seems to increase significantly with each band reunion.

Getting together with old friends is, of course, a highlight of the reunion. My best friend is Dave from Pennsylvania. That’s me (left) with him on campus in the early ‘60s. As you probably know, people’s personality doesn’t change much as they get older. We often exhibit the same quirks and idiosyncrasies that endeared us to each other back in the day. For example, Dave, who is brilliant, is somewhat forgetful. Often, he would be missing a vital part of his instrument, such as the trumpet’s mouthpiece or the liar to hold his music; that is, if he remembered to bring his music. I say this with great affection because Dave has to endure my being well prepared for the event and annoyingly knowing when and where we need to be next.

Which brings me to the highpoint of this article. At a band reunion about eight years ago, the alumni bands were about ready to march to the stadium. Dave, however, had given his wife, Diane, his trumpet to hold while he took movies. Suddenly, the drum major blew his whistle – the signal that the first alumni band, the one Dave and I were in — was about to step-off. Dave was in a panic. He couldn’t find Diane and his trumpet, but he didn’t want to miss marching. So, he quickly joined our trumpet rank with his trusty Bell & Howell in hand.

It’s a little difficult to march, play, laugh and feel sorry for someone at the same time, which was my problem. Looking like you’re a vital part of the alumni band by carrying a movie camera instead of an instrument, was Dave’s dilemma.

We marched into the stadium and were seated on field seats at the south end. Members of the trumpet section sympathized with Dave and tried to figure how to reunite him with his instrument, which was somewhere with Diane amidst 80,000-plus gathering fans.

As we watched football players from each team going through warm-ups, we noticed a lone figure dressed in a black suit walking along the sideline toward the band. As he got closer, we realized it was a young priest and he was carrying something. Why, it was a trumpet! Could it possibly be Dave’s deserted instrument? And when the good father began asking for a trumpeter named Dave, we knew the missing bugle was about to find its cherished home.

In following the band in pursuit of her husband, Diane came across the priest inside the stadium. She explained the desperate situation she was in as only an anxious woman can to a man, especially one not equipped as a husband might be to handle a frantic, tearful woman. The man of God finally agreed to try and deliver the abandoned instrument to someone named Dave in the alumni band section.

Dave, of course, was only too happy to welcome the priest and accept his beloved instrument. But, when he tried to hand the movie camera to the reverend for its return to Diane, the priest balked and said he only agreed to deliver the trumpet. There were no returns!

Come to think of it, I never did learn how Dave managed to play his trumpet – it takes two hands – and march back to the band room after the game also carrying the camera. Guess I’ll have to wait for the next band reunion to find out.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer