- Courtesy of the Michigan Marching Band
By Bethany Biron, Daily News Editor
Published September 27, 2011
Members of the Michigan Marching Band were gathered in Revelli Hall before practice on Monday when they received the sad news that their friend and bandmate, Patrick Fleming, had died in a car accident that morning. Instead of stopping the practice, most of the band members came together and began playing, knowing that the effervescent Fleming wouldn’t have wanted them to stop the music.
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Fleming, a sophomore at the University’s Flint campus and a graduate of Pioneer High School, was commuting to school from his home in Ypsilanti on Monday morning when he encountered sudden traffic while driving in a construction zone. His 1994 Oldsmobile Bravada crashed into the vehicle in front of him, police told the Flint Journal. Fleming was traveling northbound on US-23 near Fenton, Mich.
A second-year member of the trumpet section in the Michigan Marching Band, Fleming was known to have a constant smile on his face and to be dedicated to hard work on the practice field. In addition to being a student and member of the band, Fleming also worked the night shift at a retirement home. During summer training he worked all night prior to the band’s 9 a.m. practices.
Scott Boerma, director of the Michigan Marching Band and an associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, wrote in a statement to The Michigan Daily that Fleming’s dedication and commitment served as an inspiration to the band and the entire University community.
“Patrick had an infectious smile at all times and was a devoted member of our family,” Boerma wrote. “He worked the midnight shift, went to his classes at UM-Flint, and drove back for marching band practice every day. His dedication to living life fully was inspiring, and he had a positive impact on all of us.”
In honor of Fleming, the band will dedicate its Saturday performance at Michigan Stadium to Fleming, Boerma wrote. Members of the band will wear armbands and trumpet pins in memoriam. The band will also leave Fleming's place in the field formations unoccupied on Saturday, according to a blog post Athletic Director Dave Brandon wrote on MGoBlue.com yesterday.
"Patrick Fleming will be missed by us all," Brandon wrote. "The Michigan Marching Band was an important part of Patrick's life, and he was an important part of what makes our band special."
In the blog post, Brandon expressed his condolences on behalf of the Athletic Department and praised Fleming for his commitment to the marching band.
"This young man wasn't on scholarship; he had to work to make it through school," Brandon wrote. "Between performing, practicing and studying he had to work full time at a retirement home to raise the funds necessary to realize his dream," Brandon wrote. "Every weekday, Patrick drove 112 miles back and forth — to Flint for school and back to Ann Arbor for the 90-minute band practice."
After hearing the news of Fleming’s death Monday afternoon, band officials first contacted the band’s student leaders as well as the University’s Division of Student Affairs. They subsequently told all the band members before practice, according to Boerma.
Engineering senior Jeffrey McMahon, the marching band’s drum major, was among one of the first members of the band to hear the news of Fleming’s death. McMahon received a phone call from Boerma on a bus ride home from class and was shocked by the news. He said his first thought was how to help the rest of his teammates cope with the tragedy.
“It really took everybody off guard,” McMahon said. “It kind of was like a lightning strike that hit home rather than a few miles away.