Irish Traditions: Trumpets Under the Dome

(Photo - Matt Cashore / USPRESSWIRE)

This is my new series featuring the background on some of the most storied Notre Dame traditions. Some will be well-known fan-favorites, and others will seem a little more obscure. For all of them though, there is great Notre Dame history involved, and I look forward to helping share that history; I hope you enjoy it!

My first installment will feature the tradition of – “Trumpets Under the Dome.” At first I felt like I must have been a pretty bad fan as a student to have missed this, because this tradition wasn’t ringing a bell to me at all during my initial discovery of it. However, I later learned that the tradition didn’t start until the fall after I graduated. I felt so much better after that revelation! But without further ado, here’s the history behind “Trumpets Under the Dome.”

November 12, 1993 was the Friday night before the highly anticipated “Game of the Century” — a game which matched up #1 Florida State and #2 Notre Dame. That night, a small group of trumpet players informally gathered outside the Administration Building and together the ensemble decided to play the Alma Mater and the Fight Song. The next day Notre Dame won, which of course had nothing to do with the trumpet players playing the night before, but don’t tell that to the trumpet players – that night a tradition was born. Like all great traditions that begin as superstitions, the band members insisted that it was good luck and must continue. The following year, the trumpets continued to gather under the Dome and play the Alma Mater and the Fight Song on home football game weekends.

The tradition has continued to grow and grow ever since. On Fridays before home games, the trumpet players gather under the Dome at 4:00pm on the second floor. Fans gather around the railings on the third and fourth floors and look down as the trumpets play. Then on Saturdays, about an hour before kickoff, the trumpets line the third and fourth floors of the Main Building. Fans can stand below them and look up to see the bells against the beautiful ceiling of the Dome. The trumpets, still in line with the original tradition, perform the Alma Mater followed by the Victory March. This is a great football weekend tradition that has stayed true to its roots, and is one that every fan must experience. If this does not get you pumped and ready for Notre Dame football, I’m not sure what will!

I found this excerpt on from one of the trumpet players who played that first “Trumpets Under the Dome.” You might enjoy their perspective, too!

“There were just a few of us who did this the first time, not the whole trumpet section. As the site says, the first “Trumpets under the Dome” was on Friday evening before the Florida State game.” “It wasn’t the only time that a few trumpets played the fight song on campus that day. It’s hard to understand now, after 15 years of futility, how great the football program was back then and how amped the campus was. Some of us went into the dining halls at lunch and played the fight song; people were standing on tables and screaming and going nuts. You couldn’t walk around campus with an instrument and not get asked to play the fight song, as the campus was packed with alumni and visitors from Friday morning on.”

“By Friday evening we’d played the fight song on campus dozens of times, had a packed pep rally, and then things had calmed down a bit by 8-9 pm. That’s when we had the idea to go over to the Dome and play the Alma Mater and then the fight song one last time. We were outdoors, in street clothes, and it was pretty quiet. It’s hard to describe how it felt without being sappy, but if you are an alum and can remember what it was like to walk around the Dome at night on almost any evening, in the shadow of Our Lady and near Christ in the Basilica, you will have a sense of what it felt like. Numinous. And memorable.”

“The game the next day was great, and ND was briefly #1, and the experience of playing the Alma Mater and fight song under the Dome stayed with us. The next year, somebody suggested going over to the Dome before the step-off and playing the Alma Mater and fight song outside, as we had done it the year before. So we did that for a few Fridays, and then at some point a secretary in the Main Building told somebody that the office workers liked it and wanted us to do it inside. So we started playing the Alma Mater and fight song inside, directly under the Dome. By the end of the season (Fall 1994), most trumpets were coming over before the step-off to do this. And a tradition was born.”

“It’s been really neat for me to watch this grow into something that is now part of the game weekend tradition. Thanks for reminding me of it.”

In my next installment, I will give some background on the “Midnight Drummers Circle.”


A big thank you goes out to Tyler Moorehead for his editing help & perspective on this story. Tyler is a Senior English major at Notre Dame (& writes for You can catch Tyler on Twitter at — @Tmoorehead627

You can also read his his latest piece on Manti Te’o over at CollegeSpun.

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  1. GREAT post! No way would you have ever missed something so noteworthy on campus 🙂 This tradition is something I’ve yet to experience. Hopefully I can catch “Trumpets Under the Dome” before the Stanford game next month.

    It will be fun reading about other ND traditions, as seen through your eyes, and experienced by The Mayor of Notre Dame 🙂

    GO IRISH!!

  2. Lisa: Nice article! If you’d like, I can give some insight into the raising of the helmets after a game. E-mail me.


    1. Where, when or why did the tradition of standing, swaying and singing the school Alma Mater after each game?

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