Peacocks Marching World Feature with University of Pittsburgh Assistant Director of Bands Matthew Alosi
History: When did your group/you first start your activity and how has your group/you continued to participate?
The Varsity Marching Band at the University of Pittsburgh was founded in 1911. The university was in its 22nd football season when the first Pitt Band appeared at Forbes Field on October 14, 1911, at the Pitt-Ohio Northern game. The band was organized by Dr. Earl Miller and James G. Oliver with Carl Sabad as the student leader and Don Kirk as the manager. The eight-man contingent wore “uniforms” of scarlet felt caps with blue tassels and played seven instruments borrowed from Becker’s Music Store. Funds from students, alumni and friends of the University were given to buy the caps and tassels. In 1912 E.V. Babcock, former mayor of Pittsburgh and well known industrialist, bought the first real uniforms, including mackinaws as protection against bad weather.
Traditions: What traditions are you working to create and carry on within the music programs you work with?
Coming Out of the Hole: This tradition has been with the Pitt Band since 1925 when the band’s traditional entrance into the stadium was through the tunnel, called the hole, in Pitt Stadium. Though Pitt Stadium was torn down, the tradition still lives on as the band makes their way out of the holes on the closed end of Heinz Field.
Herald Trumpets: In 1958, Director Ace Arthur added herald trumpets for the band. It is a tradition that the first component seen during the pregame show is herald trumpets marching silently to center field to play a fanfare and to silently march off.
Smoke: After the Heralds finish their fanfare, the drum line section leader screams “Slam” as all the drums start to roll. All that members see in front of them is a wall of smoke. The band starts cheering. Then, through the smoke the Drum Major and drumline emerge onto the field. The drumline plays a cadence and once they finish, the Drum Major gives two long whistles and four short whistles. The hole once again fills with smoke as the entire band emerges out and onto the field. It is said that about 20 years ago a drummer asked that a fire extinguisher be set off as they run out of the hole. Ever since then, smoke has been a signature of the Pitt Band Pregame Show.
Drum Major: The Pitt Drum Major position is rather unique to most major colleges. There is no set pregame routine that they have to follow. The Pitt Band has had drum majors dance, twirl, do backbends, splits, strut, jump into the stands, or a combination of each. Each Drum Major brings their own signature to the position.
Seniors Dot the I: The last game of each season is the day that seniors, who have served the band for so many years, are honored. At the end of the halftime show, the band breaks into a run cadence and forms the PITT formation from the pregame show. The seniors form a large dot over the I. The rest of the band leaves the field as each senior has had their name read, they march off the field playing “Victory” one last time.
Singing in the Hole: This tradition is one from Pitt Stadium that went away and was brought back in 2002. As the band assembles in the hole to prepare for Pregame, the chant is heard as one member starts “Sound the note, take up the cry” by the end “Onward to Victory” the entire band has joined in. From there, the band sings Victory, Hail to Pitt, the Alma Mater, finally ending with “No one breaks the Ranks!”
“No one breaks the ranks!” This is a chant done right before the band gets ready to go on. Everyone raises their hands in the air and claps in rhythm ending with everyone screaming “No one breaks the ranks!”
March to Victory: After the Pregame Concert is a parade. When on campus, the parade proceeded from the Quad up “Cardiac Hill” to the stadium. Now, the parade starts on General Robinson Street and marches to Heinz Field where fans line up to greet the Pitt Band as it marches by.
Leadership: What kind of Leadership opportunities are you providing for your participants? Were your provided these opportunities as a participant or student?
Students have the opportunity to audition and interview for the spots of drum major, assistant drum major, section leader, and squad leader. They may also elect to participate in one of three service organizations.
Community: How are you and/or your students representing the community (or institution) through performances? Are there any particular events that stand out?
The Pitt Band annually performs for all Pitt home football game in Pittsburgh’s iconic Heinz Field. Additional performances may include away football games, professional sporting events, local parades, and as an exhibition band at various high school band festivals/competitions.
How can someone get involved with your band?
All candidates must complete an audition prior to the beginning of Band Camp. Auditions are by appointment. Wind instrumentalists may submit a video or audio tape with a letter of authentication from their High School Band Director in lieu of “in person.” Positions in the drum line, color guard, and Golden Girls (majorettes) are held each spring.
Is there a website or link you would like people to go to learn more?