by Laura Kammerer
It’s 6 a.m. on a Saturday.
While many students are fast asleep and others finally crawling into bed, for the 395 members of the Carolina marching band, it’s just another roll call at Williams-Brice Stadium for a noon home football game.
And for three nursing students — Leah Miller, Jordan Fenninger and Amanda Pridgeon — marching band provides more than practice for early-morning hospital shifts. Entertaining Gamecock football fans as part of the Mighty Sound of the Southeast is a fun, creative outlet that offers a release from their rigorous studies.
Pridgeon, 22, of Charlotte, joined the Coquettes, the band’s dance ensemble, after transferring to Carolina. When she considered quitting the team before entering the upper division of the College of Nursing because of concerns about juggling the academic load alongside her dance commitments, a team captain who was a fellow nursing student pulled her aside and encouraged her to continue.
“She took me to coffee and said, ‘First of all you need this. You can’t stay in your room and study all the time or you will go crazy,’” said Pridgeon, a fourth-year student. “I don’t even think about nursing when I’m (at band). It may be stressful when I’m learning (choreography), but my brain gets a break.”
Participating in band provides moments to hang out with friends and play music as well as special opportunities. Miller, 20, a clarinet player from Woodstock, Ga., said she’ll never forget the excitement of standing in the tunnel waiting to perform her first pre-game show as the announcer welcomed the crowd to Williams-Brice Stadium and “2001: A Space Odyssey” blared into the stands.
For Fenninger, of Mooresville, N.C., also a 20-year-old clarinet player, her favorite band memory to date has been playing at a Carolina Panthers halftime show and being in the same stadium as her favorite NFL players Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton. Pridgeon meanwhile said traveling and performing in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl game was an unforgettable experience.
Beyond the fun, third-year nursing students Fenninger and Miller said participating in band has taught them lessons that have translated into classroom success.
“On my very first day of high school marching band, I was late and I got into trouble for that,” Fenninger said. “Band has taught me that you need to be on time for everything.” For her, that means being prompt for lectures, clinical experiences and, of course, band practices. Likewise, she said band promotes a sense of responsibility; each member must learn the music and the drill and be ready to go.
Miller said that she learned time management skills and self-discipline from the long hours of band practice she logged in high school, which has helped her to thrive in the classroom at Carolina while serving on the executive board for Men in Nursing and helping with the Carolina–Clemson blood drive.
And the teamwork she learned in band is just as applicable to nursing school where students excel because of the relationships they form to support each other.
“Study groups are so important,” Miller explained. “You can’t do nursing school by yourself!”