MDB's Gym Jammers help create atmosphereBy Camille Corbett | 01/30/2013 11:00pm
It is common to see a band performing during halftime of a football game but at The University of Alabama, the band even performs at gymnastics meets and basketball games.
The UA Gym Jammers are members of the Million Dollar Band that play at gymnastics meets and other sporting events across campus.
“We were playing at a wheelchair basketball game and someone decided to call us the Gym Jammers, and the name just stuck,” David Sheffield, a senior who plays euphonium with the group, said.
Johnathon Blankenship, a junior who plays the trombone, said he enjoys playing at gymnastics meets.
“Gymnastics meets are fun, and it’s a great atmosphere. Gymnastics meets are one of the most fun things on campus and it’s incredible to be part of it,” he said.
Acceptance into Gym Jammers is much more selective than acceptance to the Million Dollar Band.
“There are a lot of fewer spots,” Sheffield said. “So, there are tryouts, and there are two separate bands to cover all the events.”
The Gym Jammers also have a more difficult practice schedule than the standard Million Dollar Band because of the infrequency of the times they meet.
“We introduce some new music we wouldn’t normally play, and we really don’t get as much practice time as we do during the Million Dollar Band,” Sheffield said. “So, it’s a little bit more of a challenge.”
Due to the competitiveness of this band, members are pushed to become better performers and musicians.
(See also "100 years of the Million Dollar Band")
Casey Sperrazza, a senior who plays mellophone, said playing at a sporting event can be difficult.
“Playing at athletic events is just complex because you have to balance entertaining a crowd all the while playing an instrument,” Sperrazza said.
Members of The Gym Jammers also reap a few perks for their hard work to make sure the gymnastics meets and basketball games are spirited.
“We get about $500 between the two semesters,” Sheffield said.
In addition, these students travel with the different teams for special games, Blankenship said.
“We don’t get to travel during the season, only post season, just for gymnastics regionals and, assuming we make the top 12 or top 6, we will go to UCLA for nationals,” he said. “For basketball season, we go to the SEC tournament and [men’s and women’s NCAA tournament].”
Even though they aren’t playing for football games, the members of the Gym Jammers still feel the pressure to perform to the best of their abilities.
“Last year, I was in Atlanta, and it was just as nerve-racking as the national championship in New Orleans [last year]. We got just as excited,” Blankenship said.
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