The Spirit of UA

Members of the Million Dollar Band pose in the stands of Bryant-Denny at a football game.
Members of the Million Dollar Band at a football game.

From the Winter 2019 Collegian | When Barbara Stone talks about the Million Dollar Band, her passion for its members and mission are evident in every sentence. Each word is thought out—meticulously chosen to fully represent the respect and love she has for each halftime show, each song from the stands, and each member marching on the field. And that passion has transformed the experience for the students involved.

Stone spent her undergraduate career on a piano bench, earning a degree in piano performance during her time at UA. Although her practice rooms were located a ten-minute walk away from the Million Dollar Band’s practice field, her love for the band would spark years later, when she returned to the College of Arts and Sciences as a member of the Leadership Board. At an Arty Party auction, her husband, Cris, bid on and won her the opportunity to conduct the Million Dollar Band at a football game, and, through that experience, she found a new love.

“It turned out to be the most fun thing ever,” Stone said. “After that happened, I fell in love with the band. I gained so much respect for them—the way Dr. Ozzello organizes the band, the responsibility and respect that the students have for each other, their professionalism, their hard work. It was all amazing.”

Since then, Stone has been a driving force for the Million Dollar Band. When she realized that they didn’t have adequate practice and instrument storage facilities, she helped organize and lead a group to get the band the funds and support they needed to thrive. With the help of her vocal support, the Moody Music Building was renovated, a new marching band wing was added, and the band received a state-of-the-art practice field where they could practice without worrying about flooding or other dangerous practice conditions.

The Stones’ personal contribution, however, was the addition of a climate-controlled instrument storage room in the parking deck constructed right next to the practice field. Previously, instruments were stored in a semi-trailer outside, where they were susceptible to the elements and could be drastically altered by cold weather, humidity, and rain.

“Cris and I wanted to do something for the School of Music,” Stone said. “When we met with them, they said they needed the storage space. The room was this big cement block, but they needed the shelving and lockers and all that stuff to make the room usable. We wanted to give them what they needed so they could focus more on practice and performances.”

“And now that there is an adequate storage space, we were also able to provide the initial funding for the Million Dollar Band Instrument Support Fund,” Stone said. “Its purpose is to provide funds for instrument maintenance, repair and, eventually, replacement. It is our hope that this endowment will increase over the years in order to make a tangible difference to the band. Can you imagine how the band would look and sound with a complete set of matching instruments?”

While the facilities have been built and grand-opening ribbons cut, Stone isn’t through with the Million Dollar Band. Currently, she serves as president of the Friends of the Million Dollar Band, a group of alumni, parents, and supporters who raise funds for scholarships and other expenses that band members face throughout the year. During her time as president, Stone hopes to double membership and increase the money raised by the group so that more students can enjoy their experiences in the band.

“We have a really good group of people who are involved,” Stone said. “They’re very dedicated to advancing the band and making more people aware of what they do. Everyone knows that they play instruments, but they really do so much more. And we want to let everyone know how much they do.”

For the next two years, Stone will use her time as president to advocate for more instruments and funding for the band, as well as get to know current members, alumni, parents, and spectators at events throughout the year. But don’t expect her to slow down once her time as president is done—her passion for the Million Dollar Band will keep going for a long time.

“This band represents the whole spirit of the school,” Stone said. “Every college in the University has members in that band. They look good, they sound good. They work hard. They emulate the pride we all have in our school. Who doesn’t love the sound of Yea Alabama at a football game? They make a huge contribution wherever they perform. People react to the Million Dollar Band. You have to—how could you not?”