Million dollar gameday

Million dollar gameday

The Million Dollar Band has been hard at work all summer in preparation of the fall football season. CW | Pete Pajor

Hannah Hammitte

It’s gameday in Tuscaloosa, and as the sweat seeps through their 10-pound crimson and white uniforms, the 400 members of the Million Dollar Band enter Bryant-Denny Stadium, raise their recently shined instruments, adjust their shakos and waits in anticipation for those chilling words to fill the packed stadium: “Please welcome the Million Dollar Band.”  

Gameday is much more than watching the football pass up and down the freshly cut field for the Million Dollar Band. Gameday is what the band practices up to two hours each day for.

“A lot of people are surprised to hear we practice for two hours every day,” said Haley Carnes, trumpet player for the Million Dollar Band and a senior majoring in theatre. “Sunday is our only day off.”

The band does not have an indoor facility for practice, and rehearsal has to be called off for thunder or lightning. The Alabama heat is also a common obstacle. However, Carnes said they learn to push through the high.

“The weather is a big challenge,” she said. “If we didn’t practice in the heat, we wouldn’t be prepared for the games.”

Practice makes perfect, and gamedays are no exception for rehearsal.

On gamedays, the band usually practices the pregame and halftime shows in the morning.

One hour before the game, the whole band meets at the steps of Gorgas Library for the Elephant Stomp pep rally. During the Elephant Stomp, 50 band members march to the president’s mansion to perform before the game, a new tradition starting this year.

Following the Elephant Stomp and the performance at the president’s mansion, the band then lines up on Colonial Avenue to march into the stadium together. Once the band is in the stadium, the members enter from the four corners of the field for the pregame show.

“Pregame is my favorite part of gameday,” Carnes said. “Everyone is on their feet and everyone is cheering. It’s a crazy feeling.”

The band returns to the stands until there are eight minutes left in the second quarter. Then it’s time for halftime.

“We can finally rest at the end of the game,” Carnes said. “It’s a long day.”

Carnes said the long days are worth it for the once-in-a-lifetime experiences gained.

“We tell the freshmen when they enter the stadium on gameday for the first time, it will be different than anything they have ever experienced before,” Carnes said. “It’s a huge adrenaline rush. Half of the time I finish pregame and I don’t remember doing it.”

The band gets as close to the football team as most people can get.

“Everything you do, you do for the team,” Carnes said.

The prestige that comes with being a member of the Million Dollar Band comes with standards to be upheld, even when they aren’t sporting the crimson and white uniforms.

“We are expected to hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially while in uniform,” Carnes said. “It’s a lot of responsibility sometimes to be aware of yourself on a constant basis, but it is also a great feeling.”

Proper time management is a requirement for band members, rather than a suggested quality.

“Because it does take so much time out of your day, it does make you have to have time management skills,” said Johnny Simpson, three year trumpet player for the Million Dollar Band and a senior majoring in German and accounting. “I had to make sure I got work done before band and had time to finish things after band as well.”

Being around fellow band members for over 15 hours every week creates a family bond among the talented group.

Simpson said his favorite thing about the band was the camaraderie.

“It becomes a family,” he said. “Band has definitely helped me communicate more with others and learn to work under pressure.”

Carnes echoed Simpson in saying the Million Dollar Band is a giant family.  

“If I weren’t in the Million Dollar Band, I’d have a lot less friends, that’s for sure,” Carnes said.