Irish Traditions: Midnight Drummer’s Circle

tradition drummer circle
Before the band, and the drum line, perform on Saturdays (shown above), they put on a show for fans in front of the Golden Dome at midnight on the eve of kickoff. (Photo - Brian Spurlock / US PRESSWIRE )

One of the best things about Notre Dame football traditions is that they happen at all times of the day – and night. In fact, one of the biggest events, and a huge fan favorite, occurs at midnight — The Midnight Drummer’s Circle.

At a time when you’d think most visitors to campus would be back in their hotels preparing for game day, the campus is actually teeming with activity. On the Friday night before home games, students and fans alike gather at the bottom of the steps under the Golden Dome and wait for the drummers to arrive. After the bells of the Basilica chime the midnight hour, the drumline arrives and forms a circle within the middle of the crowd, marking the official beginning of game day.

Once in place, the drummers play for the crowd for forty-five minutes, playing the drum cadences that will be played in Notre Dame Stadium during the football game. These include most of the offensive, defensive, and sideline cheers that the band plays throughout the game. They also play the major fan favorites, the Notre Dame Fight Song and the Rakes of Mallow, which often leads to impromptu jigging from the adoring crowd.

The Midnight Drummer’s Circle, like Trumpets Under the Dome, is a fairly recent tradition. It originated in 2000 by members of the Notre Dame Drumline. “The idea of having it at midnight is that it would be recognized as the official kickoff to game day,” says assistant band director, Sam Sanchez. (Excerpt from )

The original Drummer’s Circle was held at the Stonehenge fountain, on the campus’ North Quad. In 2001 they moved the circle to the Golden Dome, and they have never looked back. After the first two years being a huge success, the drumline was able to get the support of the Student Activities Office, who decided to make the Midnight Drummer’s Circle an official football weekend event. Once the event was embraced and promoted by the Activities Office, the crowds began to grow larger and larger. What started with an original crowd of 40 students and fans now has hundreds and hundreds show up each and every home football weekend, rain or shine.

While admittedly a fairly new tradition, The Midnight Drummer’s Circle is a must-see attraction for any visitor to campus during a football weekend. It exemplifies the spirit and tradition that is Notre Dame, and allows fans to integrate themselves and celebrate with the student body, right under the most iconic building Notre Dame has to offer.

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. It does demonstrate the merit of playing cupcakes early on, that way you let him wing it to develop his timing and confidence and with mistakes you can recover. With the exception of Navy a pick 6 could be fatal.

  2. Who would have thought going into the season that, including us with all the teams we play, we would be the lone undefeated team at this point in the season. Washington did to Stanford what others have been doing to us, jam the line of scrimmage and dare them to beat you through the air. We have to somehow work that out, unfortunately I think the only guy on our roster with long range accuracy is Gunner.

    1. fxm-You hit the answer with jamming the box. They Stanford) will not see any front like ours this season.

      Gunner is not ready yet…or is he? I like the idea of unleashing EG. And I too will admit I screamed when I saw Tommy hit the field, but he has proven he is a mature, polished, and winning qb. My hat is off to him. Great character there.

      1. I wasn’t really suggesting Gunner, I would imagine if he was ready he would be in. Just seems like Tommy doesn’t have the arm-strength and Hendrix and Golson don’t seem to have the accuracy to stretch the field but Gunner probably can do the one thing that none of the others can. It is a shame because we haven’t this kind of speed at the wide-out in a while.

      2. The reciever speed is pretty stunning.

        As for EG’s accuracy? From what I’ve read he seems to be on target in practice, but tightens up somewhat in games. That’s why some pundits feel Coach should just let him loose. A confidence factor is at play. He does practice against one of the nation’s premier defenses, so he’s been tested under fire.

        I see a break out game soon for EG. He has gifted abilities and they need to manifest themselves on the scoreboard, and soon.

        Go Irish! Hooah!

  3. Have to admit, I didn’t stay up to watch it, but did read that Washington defeated Stanford last night.

    Then read how they did it.

    Washington didn’t do anything to win that game that ND isn’t capable of doing!

  4. This is such an interestion tradition! And it’s also one on my bucket list to witness someday : )

    Thank you again for bringing Notre Dame traditions to life through your posts. You’re representing your alma mater very well!

    GO IRISH!!

  5. “The Midnight Drummer’s Circle, like Trumpets Under the Dome, is a fairly recent tradition. It originated in 2000 by members of the Notre Dame Drumline.”


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