UA’s Million Dollar Band Celebrates 100 Years
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Million Dollar Band, one of The University of Alabama’s most beloved organizations, marks its 100th anniversary this fall, kicking off its Centennial Celebration with a Sept. 21 concert featuring directors from the past 100 years.
“The band’s sound has changed throughout the years, but the spirit associated with it hasn’t,” said Ken Ozzello, director of the Million Dollar Band since 2003. “It’s important to celebrate that tradition.”
The Sept. 21 Alabama Wind Ensemble Centennial Concert, featuring directors from the past 100 years, will be followed by a Centennial Gala where members and alumni will receive commemorative rings. On Saturday, Sept. 22, The University of Alabama Alumni Band will perform with the Million Dollar Band during the halftime show at the football game with Florida Atlantic University. Later, a piece of commemorative art commissioned especially for the Million Dollar Band will be revealed.
Formed during the 1912-13 school year, the band has its roots in UA’s military background and was formed as a way of training students to march as a unit. The name “Million Dollar Band” was first used in 1922 by W. C. “Champ” Pickens, an Alabama alumnus and former football team manager.
The most widely accepted version of the story is rooted in the band’s trip to the 1922 away game against Georgia Tech. Because the band’s budget at the time was little more than what it spends on T-shirts and water bottles today, members were forced to fundraise extensively just to cover the cost of the over-crowded bus ride to Georgia.
During that game, won by the Yellowjackets 33-7, an Atlanta sportswriter asked Pickens, “You don’t have much of a team, what do you have at Alabama?” Pickens replied, “A million-dollar band.” The name, now more appropriate than sarcastic, stuck.
More than 25,000 students have played in the band in the last 100 years; today, the band boasts more than 400 members, making it the largest student organization on campus. The group has performed before hundreds of audiences at football games on college campuses across the United States.
In 2003 the band was awarded the prestigious Sudler Trophy, the national championship for collegiate marching bands, which any band may win only once. Recently, its performances were seen by millions during halftime shows at the national football championship games played in 2009 and 2011.
To begin this year of Centennial Celebration, the Million Dollar Band added another accomplishment to its list: first marching band to parade in the streets of Florence, Italy. In May, more than 100 members of the band traveled to Italy for two weeks to perform in concert halls throughout the country and interact with Italian music ensembles.
For more information about the Centennial Celebration, visit http://bands.ua.edu/mdb-centennial-celebration.
The Million Dollar Band is affiliated with the School of Music, which is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences. It is the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.