MDB marches to beat of its own drum

MDB marches to beat of its own drum

Adrienne Burch

Alabama caps off a drive with a ten-yard touchdown from Trent Richardson, and who is there to strike up “Yea Alabama” and get the entire stadium on its feet? The Million Dollar Band. They are an essential part of The University of Alabama gameday experience that makes it unlike any other in the nation.

The name the “Million Dollar Band” came around in 1922, when Alabama’s band had to raise money to attend Georgia Tech for a game. Alabama alumnus W.C. “Champs” Pickens coined the term because of their successful fundraising efforts.

The Tide fell short of Tech that year, but when Pickens was asked by an Atlanta sports writer, “You don’t have much of a team – what do you have at Alabama?” He replied, “A Million Dollar Band.”

Since then, the name has stuck. From August to December, they can be seen playing every afternoon on their practice field off of University Boulevard.

They begin with a 10-day band camp in August prior to the start of classes. They practice 10 hours a day during camp to prepare for the upcoming season and then transition into daily practices from 4 to 5:30 p.m. for the remainder of the season.

Despite these daily practices, the band members still seem to find a way to balance band and their school work.

“It takes up a lot of time being in the Million Dollar Band, but it has made me a better person and a more dedicated student,” clarinet player Danielle Drews said.

The dedication of band members can also be seen in how they endure the drastic change in weather from the 90-degree days of August to the 30-degree days in December.

“The weather change has different effects on different people,” said drum major Bre-A’nna North. “We just try our best to adjust to the weather. Some of the instruments play differently in colder weather, so we have to keep that in mind, as well.”

However, from the daily practices to the crazy weather, the band seems to get through, and the members say all of the hard work and dedication becomes worth it when they step onto the field on Saturdays.

“I feel like what makes all the hard work worth it is game day,” said baritone/euphonium section leader Andy Shirley. “There’s nothing else like coming out of the tunnel dressed in crimson and white, playing the tune to the best fight song in college football.”

This year’s band consists of around 430 members who play at each home game. The band typically takes a small pep band of about 50 to 100 members to away games; however, occasionally they take a full band on the road.

“We are like our own student section, all 400 of us,” Drews said. “We have way too much fun.”

They began this season with a Tuscaloosa Tribute show that honored the tornado victims. Then they transitioned into an Elvis-themed show, followed by the Elton John show they performed for the final time against LSU last Saturday.

“Changing shows keeps it interesting,” Drews said. “Every month or so, we are learning a new show, so the music never gets old.”

The Million Dollar Band will debut a new show at the Nov. 19 game against Georgia Southern and will play this throughout any possible championship or bowl game.