Bound for the Million Dollar Band

Kellen performing with the WPHS marching band (Photos courtesy of Alana Drinkard)

WEST POINT, Ala.- West Point High School senior Kellen Drinkard is a young man with many talents, so talented in fact, that he has received a scholarship to the University of Alabama to be a part of the famous Million Dollar Band.  

As a member of the West Point High School Marching Band, Drinkard was a standout baritone player. During the band’s spring concert season, Drinkard switched gears and performed on the bassoon. His talents with the bassoon have earned him multiple trips to the Alabama Bandmasters Association All-State and District Honor Bands.  

Drinkard sat down to talk about his time in the West Point band program and his future with the Million Dollar Band.  

Drinkard said, “I am ready!” when asked how he is feeling about The University of Alabama. He will play baritone when he joins the Million Dollar Band in the fall. He began playing the baritone in the sixth grade when he joined the West Point band program.  

Three years ago, he also began playing bassoon. What led to the decision to learn bassoon? Drinkard explained, “I saw it and thought, that looks fun to play.” While it is not uncommon for those playing a brass instrument to transition to another brass instrument, making the jump from a low brass to a woodwind is less common.  

Trying out for the Million Dollar Band was a bit different due to the pandemic. Drinkard said, “This year, it was virtual. They scheduled a Zoom meeting.” For his audition, he played the selections sent to him to perform. The audition also includes a sight reading portion. “It was fun!” he said.  

Alabama was the school Drinkard had his sights set on and he plans on majoring in Bassoon Performance. “I like them (baritone and bassoon) equally, but bassoon gets you more money.” What does one do with a degree in Bassoon Performance? Drinkard explained, “You are in music related majors and you are in all the music classes. The professor of bassoon down there, Dr. Mann, she coordinates putting you in the different orchestras and symphonies there, including stuff by the university or the Tuscaloosa Symphony.”  

The past two school years were filled with uncertainty, but Drinkard didn’t let that discourage him or get in the way of his goals. “It was something! Any opportunity I was presented and was able to do, I was thankful for. I wasn’t terribly despondent,Drinkard said. While he missed the chance to travel with his bandmates to marching contests in the fall, he added, “It was more so just being able to get through the (football) season.”  

To young children thinking of joining their school’s band program, Drinkard had this to say, “It’s not something you can just get in based on seeing how you do. You try out on an instrument and you work up to being able to do so many more things at such a greater level than many people perceive.”  

He continued, “It’s fun and the opportunity you can get from it, even if you don’t intend to go into music, the opportunities you can get from being in a local orchestra. Playing an instrument in general is pretty much irreplaceable.”  

He said of his time in West Point’s band, “To anybody who would consider it, absolutely give it a shot because I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity I was presented with. Even with the ones I did go to, all the districts and All-State bands I went to, I wish I had gone to the ones my first three years. That’s probably my biggest regret in high school-not trying out my 7th, 8th and 9th grade (year).”  

As for his future with the Million Dollar Band, Drinkard, who has always been a Bama fan, simply said, “Roll Tide all the way!!”  

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Christy Perry