The University of Notre Dame Band from South Bend, Ind., has joined the esteemed ranks of Sudler Trophy winners. The biannual award given by the John Philip Sousa Foundation recognizes “collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life.” Bands may only win once.
“It took a long time to get the band considered for the award,” says Dr. Ken Dye, director of bands. “Since I had been at the school 13 years now, it was a good outside recognition of the amount of work that went into improving the band.”
In its 165-year history, the Band of the Fighting Irish has played for troops leaving campus since the Civil War. In recent years it has instituted the Bandlink program, giving music lessons and running bands in underprivileged areas.
“It was the collective work of the band staff, the students and the support of the alumni that helped the band improve,” Dye says. “The size of the band is bigger; the general musicality and intensity of the band has improved.”
The Sousa Foundation has updated its procedures over the last few years—making the award biannual instead of annual and enacting a lengthier selection process including nominations, submission of supporting materials and voting.
“The students were pleased to hear of outside recognition of the hard work they’ve put in through the years,” Dye says. “But I don’t think they know the amount of work that goes into getting materials together and know the number of years it takes to build a program. When they hear about it in the fall, it will be more obvious.”
In December, Notre Dame was announced as the winner at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. The Sousa Foundation will present the trophy at a fall football game, to be determined.
“There are a lot of awards that athletic programs and academic programs get,” Dye says. “But there really isn’t anything given to bands, and this is something that is outside of the university that recognizes the college band.”