Monticello pep band

The kids involved in Monticello's pep band that will play at State Farm Center took time out from finals on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, for a picture.

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MONTICELLO — The Monticello High School pep band will perform at the University of Illinois men’s basketball game on Dec. 29, and the Sages have Lovie Smith's bowl-bound football team to thank.

“This was unexpected, to be honest,” said MHS music instructor Alison Allender. “Because the Marching Illini are able to go to California for the bowl game, they’re not going to be here to play for the basketball games. So I received an email from Barry Houser, the director, and he asked if we would be interested in playing. So we jumped on the opportunity, because … how cool!”

So, the band will be learning UI pep band staples like the "Oskee Wow Wow" and "Illinois Loyalty." That means a few rehearsals over Christmas break, but the band members don’t mind.

“I’m perfectly fine with that. I really enjoy pep band. Being able to do it on a stage like this is really exciting,” said senior sousaphone player Aiden Olsen.

The band is expected to be 65 strong, said Allender.

“We are very honored,” added Allender.

It is not the first time the band has been honored on the UI campus this year. The marching band won the Governor’s Grand Champion Trophy for Classes 1A through 3A at this fall’s University of Illinois Marching Band Championships.

Game time for the Dec. 29 basketball game is 1 p.m., and pits the Illini against North Carolina A&T. Meanwhile, some 2,000 miles away, Houser will be getting his UI band ready for the Redbox Bowl game between Illinois and California on Dec. 30, which will take place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a Community Media Group newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.