Arney poses for a photo in a nursing simulator room

Arney: Million Dollar Band Reinforces Self-Discipline, Commitment 

Nursing major balances nursing school, role as section leader in band

By David Miller

Arney poses for a photo in a nursing simulator room
Caitlin Arney once wondered if she could balance the rigors of upper-level nursing classes and clinicals with the practice and performance schedule for Million Dollar Band.

Caitlin Arney knew the pressure of school and marching band would intensify.

It was Fall Semester 2018, and her nursing classes and clinicals would require even more time, energy and focus than she’d experienced in her first two years at The University of Alabama.

Arney, a clarinet player for the Million Dollar Band, had also been named a section leader that semester.

And even though she’d mentally prepared herself to balance the rigors of class and her new leadership role, she was a “deer in headlights.”

“I’m also heavily involved in church,” Arney said. “At some points last semester, I didn’t know what I was going to do – get good grades or be in marching band.”

But, perspective, as it always does, helped Arney regain her confidence and understand the bigger picture.

“I would have to sit back and think, ‘I came here to study nursing, I made a commitment to marching band, and I wasn’t going to stop going to church,’” Arney said. “I realized all that I was gaining at UA and that I was not the only one going through this.”

Arney has since acclimated to her roles and schedule, which typically include class and/or clinicals in the morning and band in the late afternoon and evenings, in addition to travel and time for game day performances.

This semester, she’s been afforded a modest twice-weekly reprieve: mornings off on Thursdays and Fridays.

“This summer, I tried to frontload everything to get as much done as I could, knowing how busy the semester would be,” Arney said. “Now that I have a routine, it’s all about prioritizing what I need to get done. And, I had to learn to take advantage of those two days and not sleep in.”

Arney poses for a picture while wearing nursing scrubs and holding a clarinet
Arney has played clarinet for the Million Dollar Band since her freshman year.

Role models

Arney, of Naperville, Illinois, aspires to be a pediatric or labor and delivery nurse, career paths she didn’t completely realize until she visited campus and met UA faculty and advisers.

She had previously considered majoring in education, but learned that teaching – particularly patients and families – is a staple of nursing. Additionally, she discovered she could practice and teach college nursing classes, as some of her professors do.

Clinical instructors have varying professional backgrounds and offer continual encouragement to consider different career paths, she said. Dr. Melondie Reeves Carter, assistant dean of undergraduate programs for the Capstone College of Nursing, stands out for her “pursuit of excellence” in nursing.

“Dr. Carter is so passionate about nursing, which has driven me on what to look like, act like and feel like when I’m a nurse,” Arney said.

The end draws nearer

When Arney graduates in fall 2020, she will give up playing clarinet full time, a bittersweet ending that she and other marching band members prepare for.

She’ll miss performing, particularly pre-game, when the anticipation of kickoff is at a fever pitch. She’ll miss traveling, like the game against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. Then, there was her first-ever game: USC vs. Alabama in a kickoff game in Dallas in 2016.

Being on the Million Dollar Band’s leadership team is an honor, she said, as she is able to provide the same guidance that she received when she was a homesick freshman. The band, consequently, has provided a blueprint for navigating life.

“Learning discipline, commitment and how to make it work are valuable lessons,” she said. “There won’t always be structure when you get out of college. Taking ownership for what you are responsible for in band and classes might be stressful at times, but the lessons and relationships you build make it all worth it.”