An international student’s perspective: Marching in the Band of the Fighting Irish

Author: Beatriz de Campos Silva

Beatriz For Web

Beatriz de Campos Silva is a sophomore from São Paulo, Brazil, majoring in Physics in Medicine with a minor in the Glynn Family Honors Program. She plays the piccolo in the Band of the Fighting Irish. She is also part of the Building Bridges Mentoring Program, STEMentorship program, ISAB’s Mentorship program, Black Student Association, and the Women in Physics club. She writes about her experience in the band as an international student, and how she enjoys being a part of something bigger than herself.

“Whose house? Our house!” I remember repeating these two sentences as I went down the Notre Dame Football stadium tunnel for the first time, waiting for just a few more minutes to march in front of a crowd of 80,000 Irish fans. Unlike many of the students around me, my first time marching as an official member of the Band of the Fighting Irish also came with other new experiences. It was my first time at a football game, my first time wearing a band uniform, and my first time marching in front of so many people. All of the worries I had vanished with the whistle of the drum major indicating we were ready to march in.

The idea of finally being here, in person, and doing something I love - that is to play music - amazes me every time I think of it. As an international student, I could not be on campus right after I got accepted in 2020 because of the worldwide pandemic, so my arrival at ND and my audition for the band were pushed back an entire year. However, I should mention that the last year has definitely created some very good memories.

Every Saturday during the fall season, my parents and I knew it was football day. Of course, we did not understand anything, but it was so fun to experience that atmosphere even miles away from campus and listen to the band playing, while thinking that I could actually be part of it next year. I remember practicing relentlessly for the audition every single day since then; even my dog would run into my room whenever I started playing “the greatest of ALL university’s fight songs” - the Notre Dame Victory March.

Hgd 2021oct02 Band Piccolos 3 Cropped

When I arrived on campus and participated in the band camp, I was so happy to be instantly introduced to many new people who all shared the same passion for music and represented the excitement and pride to be part of the band. In this process, I would also hear other people talking about how they were super engaged with marching band during high school or that they have always attended football games at ND with their families since they were little. As I did not have any of those experiences, mainly because they are not common outside of the US, my hopes of being accepted into the band were slightly affected. I felt that I was probably the most inexperienced auditionee that had not even held a piccolo or ever marched before.

But that was when I realized, one more time, how the concept of “ND family” was extended and maybe even intensified among the band members. The support and warm reception I received from most of the people I had just met in the band added to my parents’ encouragement and definitely helped me succeed and receive the positive result I dreamed of.

After waiting for so long, everything I experience with the band often feels surreal. Every game weekend, I feel more certain that I have made the right choice to take this opportunity and audition for the band. I knew it would be a brand new and challenging experience, but I was willing to embrace it in the best way I could. Learning and participating in all band traditions and our special dances during the midnight drummer's circle is one of the greatest moments of being part of the band and it is even better alongside so many amazing people.

The band was one of my best ways to meet new people and form bonds that I want to carry throughout my whole life.

It is so nice to constantly receive care and support from the piccolo section (a.k.a. the best section) whenever I need it - especially in these colder games we have been playing lately. Besides, I also love having conversations about how similar and, at the same time, different the Brazilian and American cultures are, and, of course, cooking brigadeiros and pão de queijo with some of my friends.

Being close to all the football players during player walk; high-fiving Irish and band fans on the way back; receiving endless ovations during the concert on the steps, pregame, and halftime shows; taking pictures with people I have never met before; seeing little kids wearing replicas of our uniforms; and walking on the football fields minutes before the kick-off - all of this, among plenty of other things, makes me realize that I am part of something bigger than myself and anything I could ever think of. It definitely enhances my experience at football games as an international student. Knowing that I can somehow represent my country and the international student community is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding feelings I experience every game weekend and every moment of my life at ND.