Flyer Pep Band adapts and keeps spirit amid pandemic

Photo of Dr. Willie L. Morris III, director of the Flyer Pep Band. 

Marissa Mark
Contributing Writer

Lights shone as the momentum of the season grew.  Fans cheered as their team continued to win, but as the energy reached a new high those lights were abruptly turned off. 

Silence. 

No cheering fans, no basketballs dribbling, and no music.  The season was over and the lights were extinguished on another group of students who support their team through music, the Pep Band.

Now as the lights turn back on for the unpredictable upcoming basketball season, how will those students spread their cheer?

The Flyer Pep Band has supported the Dayton men’s and women’s basketball team for years.  After the unanticipated ending of the 2019-2020 basketball season, the pep band lost its opportunity to cheer on its teams throughout the tournaments.  

As the world deals with COVID-19, many parts of normal life have changed.  The upcoming basketball season will include safety protocols and guidelines.

Yet the questions remain, how will COVID-19 affect the Flyer Pep Band, is the Flyer Pep Band ready for the season?

“I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’m excited about it,” Dr. Willie L. Morris III, director of the Flyer Pep Band said. 

“Well, I’m just looking forward to having the band back together.”

The Flyer Pep Band last performed at the women’s A10 basketball tournament at the University of Dayton Arena in early March.  When everything began to shut down, the pep band was preparing to join the men’s team in Brooklyn, NY.

“In a state of shock and depression,” Morris said, “I still wanted to go. I was thinking let me just get up there and get things situated and make things work… I had called several places in town to get hand wipes and some face masks and various things ready so that they knew we weren’t just going, we were prepared to go when it’s time to go.”

This upcoming season will be unpredictable, which has brought a lot of questions, but the band is preparing for anything.

“So right now, we’re still waiting on a lot from athletics,” Flyer Pep Band CEO Kirah Banks said, “We’re basically going to be off campus, by the time the season starts.” 

Since all University of Dayton students will finish the semester online after Thanksgiving, the Flyer Pep Band will not be able to perform.  

“One of the main focuses that they’ve asked us to do is to create a recording for them,” Banks said.  “So even if we are not here on campus to be able to play for games, they can still play music from the pep band.” 

The Flyer Pep Band has been practicing and has reviewed the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols. 

 “Well, we will follow all the university safety procedures as far as social distancing, wearing masks when we’re supposed to,” Morris said. 

To ensure the safety of the students and directors, rehearsals will look different.

 “We are doing rehearsals outside,” Banks said. “We’ve had to adjust our normal practice times because we need light to see.”

Instead of the entire band rehearsing together for two hours, the band will be split into red and blue bands which will each practice for an hour.  To cover more safety procedures, the pep band has digitized all its music and has obtained coverings for wind instruments.

The Flyer Pep Band’s goal is to be able to perform this upcoming season but there is uncertainty, especially with rising COVID-19 numbers.

“We’re very positive thinking,” Banks said. “And being like ‘we are going to play next semester, we are going to be at games’ just so that we’re prepared for either direction.”

If the pep band can’t perform in-person, it will try other ways to be active in the community.

“Well, I’m going to find a way to keep us together as a group.  Perhaps do some community events or maybe some pep rallies around campus.” Morris said. “Something like that to really emphasize the point that ‘we are a basketball school and we’re a part of the Flyer Pep Band.’”

Even though this season is going to be unpredictable, one thing for certain is the Flyer Pep Band will continue to spread its cheer.

“Pep band is a place where people can, you know, release all that basketball energy and passion they have for the Flyers through music and acting crazy,” Morris said.

This organization has left a special impact on its members and its directors.

“For me it’s the students, you know, I’ve never worked with a group of students that are so open and so willing and passionate about music and supporting the Flyers,” Morris said.

“I’ve always been a big fan of basketball and a big music fan, as you know, and the chance to do it together with a bunch of students who have, you know, the same kind of energy that I like to bring. That’s what makes it really special to me, to work with students that care and are energetic and passionate and a little crazy.”

Even though the bright lights of last season were abruptly shattered, this upcoming season will allow the Flyer Pep Band to use its energy and musical talents in unique ways to continue supporting the Flyers.