November 1, 2011 — EVANSTON, ILL. — For decades, the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band has been fronted by the colors of the Big Ten Conference, presented by the band's color guard during the pregame show. It is a point of pride that Wildcat band performs the opponent's fight song, "as we honor our rivals for the day," as announced by Pete Friedmann, the Voice of the Wildcat Band.
However, Director of Athletic Bands Daniel J. Farris and Director of Bands Mallory Thompson always emphasize the vitrue sportsmanship during band camp.
"We are the ambassadors of Northwestern," says Farris, admonishing his student charges.
So when University of Michigan Marching Band member Patrick Fleming was killed in an auto accident in September while commuting to class, members of the Wildcat band joined with other Big Ten bands to show their support for the fallen Wolverine and fellow musician. The effort was just recognized publicly by Scott Boerma, director of the Michigan Marching and Athletic Bands, in an editorial appearing in The Michigan Daily.
At the October 8 match between Northwestern and Michigan, "The Northwestern University Marching Band had wristbands made that were inscribed with 'We Are With You,'" says Boerma."These wristbands combined their purple with our maize-and-blue and were worn by their band during their game against Michigan," he says. Michigan band members in attendance were given wristbands to take home for every member of the Wolverine band.
Moments of silence were observed to honor Fleming at Ryan Field and also at The Ohio State University's traditional pre-game Skull Session. Buckeye band members made a eight-hour round trip to Ann Arbor to deliver an engraved drum major baton memorializing Fleming.
"As a OSU band alum, I am so proud they acted in such a spirit of sportsmanship and compassion," says Robin Siktberg, a former Ohio alto hornist.
Michigan State University's band recorded a DVD performance of "Amazing Grace," and "These students had also reached out to the other Big Ten marching bands, collected flowers and cards of sympathy, and gave them to us at our rehearsal that afternoon," says Boerma.
"At a time when poor sportsmanship and over-the-top competitiveness can dominate in football rivalries," says Boerma, "we are reminded this season that human kindess and compassion exist and thrive in our band community."
That humanity is matched only by Fleming himself, who was known for his constant and infectious smile and dedication to working hard on and off the field. He was in his second year of studies at University of Michigan's campus in Flint, and drove an hour to Ann Arbor for rehearsals and performances.
"This outpouring of support from our brothers and sisters throughout the band world has left us all in awe of the activity in which we’re involved," says Boerma. "I’ll never forget the looks in our students’ faces as this unbelievable show of support was taking place."
—Daniel M. Reck (GSESP08)
Photo by the University of Michigan Marching Band.