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RHS Alum Abby Kleist is Notre Dame’s Newest Drum Major

RHS Alum Abby Kleist is Notre Dame’s Newest Drum Major

After graduating from RHS in 2021, Abby Kleist went on to Notre Dame to study computer science and energy studies, while participating in the Notre Dame Marching Band. This past fall, Abby decided to audition to be a drum major in the band, which included a series of marching and conducting auditions as well as written questions and interviews. To her excitement, she was chosen as a drum major, alongside her peers Bailey Buie and Rayna Choi. 

“I have had an amazing time stepping into the role this spring and look forward to leading the band with Bailey and Rayna,” she said. “It has been especially exciting because it’s the second time in the history of the band that there is an all-women drum major team. The last time that happened there were heavy COVID restrictions, so it will also be the first time that an all-women team will lead the band onto the field.”

Although she was initially concerned about the time commitment, Abby couldn’t imagine her life now without being part of the marching band. She describes the experience as a foundational part of her life at college, and has found some of her closest friends in the band. “From day one the band was such a welcoming community,” she said. “It takes up most of my free time, especially being a part of many other ensembles outside of marching band, but I really enjoy every single group I'm a part of and love being so involved.”

Abby plays the trumpet, like her brother and father. Abby first picked up a trumpet in sixth grade at Richfield Middle School. But, she had actually been involved with the Marching Spartans before that. “My very first parade with the band was actually carrying the banner as a fifth grader because the band was getting penalized for not having a banner,” she said. “The next season, I joined the band officially after having played trumpet for a year.”

She continued as part of the Marching Spartans for seven years, playing the trumpet from sixth grade through her high school graduation. At Richfield High School, Abby was in the school band, and remembers how close-knit the community was, and the social connection it provided when students returned to school after the COVID-19 break. 

During her time in the Marching Spartans, Abby made lifelong friends and enjoyed the experience of marching in parade competitions with a small band of 50 to 60 people. Her time at Notre Dame looks a little different. 

“It was crazy going from parade competitions in small towns with a band of 50 to marching into Notre Dame Stadium in front of 80,000 fans, with about 70 trumpets, in a band of almost 400,” she said. “Looking back it is really cool to have had these two very different experiences. Plus, many of the marching, playing and leadership skills that I learned in middle and high school translated to college.”

While she has been in the Notre Dame Marching Band, Abby has had the opportunity to travel to different places around the world, including New York, Las Vegas, El Paso, Ireland, Spain and Portugal for football games, basketball games and concert tours.

“I wouldn’t get the opportunity to visit all of these places without the band,” said Abby. “It’s amazing to be able to play for people all around the world and see them enjoy our music. There are so many great parts about being in the Notre Dame Marching Band, but one thing I especially love is seeing the joy that the band brings people. So many fans come out to see us on football gamedays, coaches remind us how much they appreciate the band every year, and even people with no affiliation with the university show up to enjoy our music when we travel. It is really cool to be a part of a group that can have such a positive impact on the Notre Dame community and the communities around us.”

Abby’s advice to current Richfield High School students is to keep an open mind and put yourself out there, no matter what your plans are after graduation. “I never saw myself as drum major of the Notre Dame Marching Band or being a computer science major when I graduated high school but now I can't see myself doing anything else. When I was first considering these things I thought I was a little crazy but where I am now just speaks to how important it is to open your mind to new things.”

“Also, don't be afraid to put yourself out there whether it is when you move into college, at a new job, or in

any new situation. It can be so scary to do that but by talking to new people and joining different clubs and groups you may find your best friend or a new community,” she added. “With that, I will also say it is totally okay if you do not find that group of people or figure out what you want to do right away. I am a junior in college and I am still figuring those things out!”

We are proud of Abby for being chosen as a drum major and can’t wait to see what she does in the future!

Pictured below: Abby marching at Notre Dame, and with the Marching Spartans.

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