Million Dollar player

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Atmore's own Kristen Gehman marches with the Million Dollar Band Saturday during the Alabama Crimson Tide's game versus the Texas A&M Aggies.

While the University of Alabama’s football team may be the focal point of campus attention right now, crowds following the Crimson Tide from all over the country are also getting a dose of the school’s famous Million Dollar Marching Band – and Atmore native Kristen Gehman is right in the middle of it all.

Gehman, a 2011 graduate of Escambia County High School, is now a sophomore at the University of Alabama, where she is majoring in Public Relations. But Gehman is also using her years of experience as a stand out clarinet player for the Blue Devils as a way to entertain hundreds of thousands of football fans each week at Bryant Denny Stadium.

Gehman said the experience is a lot of fun, but is also a lot of hard work.

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“It’s going really well,” Gehman said. “This is my first year marching with the band. I was kind of nervous my first year about doing it because it’s a lot of work and a huge commitment. They expect you to be your best and I was just nervous about transitioning from a small school to the marching band, but I kind of regret that now. I’ve had such a great time this year so far and met a lot of really great people. It’s been a fun experience. I kind of wish I had gotten in on it a little bit earlier.”

Gehman said even the process to gain entry to the famed marching squad was rigorous.

“We actually had so many applicants this year that not everyone was able to make it,” She said. “There’s just so much interest now, so we had to have a competitive audition and they took the top players. It’s intense. We had to go through an application process and fill out information about GPAs and we also had to get a recommendation from a former band director.”

Gehman said she also went through a summer band camp to ready herself for the commitment of marching in the Million Dollar Band, as well as to prove herself worthy of being chosen.

“When we went into band camp in August, we memorize the music and went over some marching materials and then that last week of band camp we had to audition,” Gehman said. “Then they ranked us and it was just pretty intense.”

With over 400 current members Gehman said the Million Dollar Band does split into different factions on game day, especially when a long road game is on that week’s schedule.

“There are two different parts,” she said. “We do pre game performances and we do halftime shows. There are a good number of people who are alternates for that show, but then we have everyone in our halftime show.”

As far as traveling with a football team that now will play as far away as Missouri and Texas on a regular basis, Gehman said not everyone in the band will make every trip.

“As far as traveling, there are alternates for the pre game and alternates for the half time show,” she said. “If we were to go on a long trip, those people wouldn’t go unless they were needed, but at the same time they’re really good about getting everyone a chance to play. It’s not just about having the best people to perform all the time. It’s about having the people that want to be there and we have a lot of hard workers.”

Gehman said she did not travel to Alabma’s road games against Arkansas or Missouri, but enjoyed road games in venues like LSU’s Death Valley.

“They usually take smaller bands of about 50 people to games like Missouri and Arkansas,” Gehman said. “And they usually take the people playing bass and a I play clarinet. But they take more for the Dallas game and games like LSU, and hopefully we’ll be going to Miamai.”