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UD Pep Band, 2023

Flyer Pep Band to receive Stan Musial Award for sportsmanship during NCAA Tournament

By Kassidy Lammers ’24

The University of Dayton Flyer Pep Band will take a trip to St. Louis in November, but instead of cheering on a basketball team, they will walk the red carpet and pose for photos as they are honored as 2023 Stan Musial Award recipients.

Named for Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial, the Musial Awards recognize the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and those in sports who embody class and character. The Flyer Pep Band was selected for their actions during the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, when they stepped in to play for Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The ceremony is Nov. 18 at Stifel Theatre. It will be nationally broadcast Sunday, Dec. 24, on CBS.

“You can be recognized for being an outstanding musical ensemble or player, but there are very few acknowledgements of a person or organization’s character,” said Willie Morris, associate professor of saxophone and director of the Flyer Pep Band. “This group showed great sportsmanship, care and class.”

This wasn’t the first time the Flyer Pep Band stepped up for a school in need. Since 2004, Morris and the band have supported other colleges and universities without a band of their own. The Flyer Pep Band also played for Fairleigh Dickinson in 2019 during the tounament’s First Four round in Dayton.

In March, the Flyers were a part of the FDU Cinderella story, as the 16-seeded Knights upset the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers during the first round of the tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

“We always say that we were a part of that win, because to have that kind of upset, you have to have someone to cheer you on,” said Cole Joniak, a senior civil engineering major from Strongsville, Ohio, and Flyer Pep Band president. “We looked like FDU fans, because on that day we were. Even when we were leaving the game, we were celebrating like we really were the FDU pep band.”

UD PeP Band, 2023 NCAA Tournament

It was a team effort for the Flyer Pep Band to support FDU that day. Morris said the band learned the FDU fight song shortly before the game. He worked with the FDU cheerleading coach to coordinate a routine to the song, and band members repurposed their Dayton Flyers chants to support the Knights.

The Flyer Pep Band gained national attention after FDU’s upset victory, with coverage from ESPN, CNN and CBS Sports, among other news outlets. USA Today called the band’s actions “the ultimate show of band solidarity.”

Joniak said that after FDU’s victory over Purdue, fans would stop him and other members of Flyer Pep Band to ask for photos and thank them for their support.

Although FDU’s run in the tournament ended in the second round, members of the Flyer Pep Band were proud to have played a role in their story.

“At UD, we are always pushed to contribute to the common good,” Joniak said. “Giving FDU 30 of the craziest people to cheer for them right behind their basket — that’s one way we can make that kind of contribution.”

When the band travels to St. Louis to accept the Musial Award, they will have the celebrity experience as they walk the red carpet, talk with reporters and attend a reception and dinner before the ceremony. The students also will perform several times during their trip.

“I’m hoping students will see that being part of Flyer Pep Band or any ensemble isn’t just about playing your instrument and cheering on the basketball team,” Morris said. “It’s about representing who you are, who the organization is and in this case, what it means to go to UD. This may never happen again, or maybe it will. But I hope the tradition continues. Sometimes people need help, and we’re here to lend a hand.”

To support the Flyer Pep Band’s travel and performance wear costs for the ceremony, donate to their Flyer Funder campaign through Nov. 10.

For more information, visit the Flyer Pep Band and Department of Music websites.

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