The Band Worth a Million Dollars
Story by Matthew Wilson
Photos by Alaina Denean Clark
The University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band has been a staple at The University for many years. First coined by W.C. Pickens, the name has stuck ever since to describe a band who’s the product of The University’s talented musicians and professionals.
Francesca Malensek, a sophomore majoring in Psychology, plays clarinet in the band. She decided she wanted to join the MDB after coming here and playing all four years of high school.
“After deciding to come here, I wanted to be a part of something, and being in band was number one,” Malensek said.
For Malensek, the worse part of trying out for the band was the nervousness and anxiety before her audition. She was nervous about people hearing her play, but afterwards she found the experience to be pleasant.
“As a freshman, I psyched myself out. Just thinking someone’s going to watch me march and hear me play. It got me nervous,” Malensek said. “But after doing it, it wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s tough being singled out, but it wasn’t that bad actually.”
A sentiment also shared by Brandon Laird, a sophomore majoring in computer science. Laird was put into band by his parents but ended up liking it enough that he wanted to continue playing in college.
“My parents actually wanted me to try it for at least a year and I ended up loving it. I loved marching band in high school, and the MDB was what Alabama had to offer,” Laird said. “The MDB tries to accept as many new members as they can, so auditioning wasn’t hard but it was still a little stressful.”
Malensek said she enjoys the traveling the band members get to do, and being part of the band has helped her to visit places she’s never been to before.
“I like traveling to travel places. I got to go to places I have never been before. I’d never been to Tennessee, Texas. I’d never been to Miami,” Malensek said.
For Laird, his best moment of being a part of the MDB is when they played Georgia for the SEC championship 2 seasons ago.
“It was a close game, and there were a lot of emotions running through the band throughout the game,” Laird said. “That made the victory even more exciting.”
Laird said that being part of the band also has its challenges that he has to face. Being both a student and a musician can be difficult at times.
“The most challenging part is trying to keep up schoolwork while practicing every evening during the week and having virtually no time on Saturdays to get any work done,” Laird said.
Malensek said that she doesn’t practice much outside of the season, but the longer she is part of the band, the easier it is to memorize the music that she needs to perform.
“We played Jersey Boy and The Love show. The shows do vary. Sometimes, the technicality of it is a little different, but it basically stays the same,” Malensek said.
Malensek said that being a part of the MDB has enriched her college experience by helping her make lasting relationships.
“I already have a group of friends before I even to came to campus for classes,” Malensek said. “Because of it now, I see a lot of faces. I have friends in classes. I find friends everywhere.”
Neither of the two expects to continue their musical careers beyond the MDB after college, but both agree that music will always be a part of their lives.
“Band has given me a greater appreciation for music,” Laird said. “Hopefully I will find an opportunity in the future to put my saxophone to use.”
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