Carnegie Mellon University Kiltie Band - A Tradition Since 1908
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    Kiltie Band History

    And now we are proud to present the history of the Kiltie Band that 2009-2011 Vice President for Public Relations Daniel Becerra compiled during his tenure:

    A Brief History of the Kiltie Band, or "How a Band Lost Its Pants, and Decided It was Better off Without Them"

    In our 103rd year, we strive to continue the great tradition of the previous generations. On this page, you will find some descriptions of the Kiltie Band over the years. This is by no means a complete history, and if you have anything to add to or correct in this history, please contact the author. He apologizes profusely if any errors were made and will work to correct them. You can reach him by email (to laud or to berate) at dbecerra@andrew.cmu.edu.

    Humble Beginnings

    The Kiltie Band began, as the story goes, in 1908 with a group of just seven students, and now, in 2011, consists of well over 130 members. Not much is know from those early years of informal practices, but all past, current, and future Kilties certainly owe a great deal to those original seven students, and their passion for Carnegie Tech. The Band took the field for its first official performance on November 25th, 1922, on what would have been Andrew Carnegie's 87th birthday.

    "One of the Biggest Upsets in History"

    The Kiltie Band performed for the 1926 CIT vs. Notre Dame game. Knute Rockne, so alarmed by the rumors coming out of Pittsburgh of the prowess of the band, decided to skip the game in favor of attending the Army-Navy game in New York. It didn't weigh on his mind, since his team was undefeated and favored by several touchdowns. Well, CIT won that game, and legend of the Kilties grew.

    http://www.carnegiemellontoday.com/article.asp?aid=380

    Kiltie Alumnus Dean Streator recalls that period fondly. "When I was a kid I remember seeing the Kiltie Band take the field at the Pitt Stadium when CIT opposed Pitt in football. I think the band was comprised of students and alums then, a friend of my dad who worked with him at US Steel played trumpet in that band. The most impressive entrance was the band's quick step entrance and the release of the helium balloon rigged Carnegie Tech banner that floated high out of the stadium. The Pitt Band was big and ROTC structured but the Tech Band stole the moment."

    Another alumnus, Jack Purcell recalls the 1938 season, beating an undefeated Pitt squad, which had gone to the Rose Bowl the previous season, 20-10. At that time, the band was composed of about half music majors, and traveled to one away game each year.

    Bowling

    The year 1939 was a momentous one for Carnegie Tech football, and thus, the Kiltie Band. The team, after the defeat of Pitt in 1938, traveled to The Big Easy to take on Texas Christian in the Sugar Bowl. Your intrepid historian, through several difficult negotiations and several trips to the depths of the Mellon Institute mailroom, has managed to obtain an original copy of the itinerary of this fabled journey, and can now confirm that the Kilties made the trip. Sleeping in sleeping cars parked at the train station, the band performed at the game and around the city.

    Carnegie Tech would go on to continue to compete with the best football teams in the country, and the Kiltie Band continued to enlighten and entertain, right up until the Big One, WWII. Very little survives from the period of the war and the decade or so after. What is known is that while Carnegie Tech's football team ceased competing in the highest division of college football, the Kiltie Band did not back down. They continued to perform and heckle at the games.

    The March Goes On

    In the sixties, a student came to Carnegie Tech and joined the Band Without Pants, accomplished trumpeter Paul Gerlach, a name which would later become legend. The band of Gerlach's time was run as a part of the Music Department. The marching band was all male, but women could participate in the concert band (but couldn't wear kilts!). The Band was composed almost entirely of music majors, and the Band performed original compositions, penned by the official Kiltie Band Composer of the time, well regarded professional composer Ed Madden, at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh.

    Gerlach stayed for a Masters in Music Education at Carnegie Tech through its merger with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, and holds the distinction of receiving degrees from both Carnegie Tech and Carnegie Mellon. After receiving his degrees, he left the school to teach and perform music elsewhere.

    Fall and Rebirth

    Then in the mid 70s, the music department and school administration decided on basis of low student interest to end marching band. The Kiltie Concert Band continued, but then fizzled out after a few years. The late seventies were dark days at CMU, for there were no Kilted Crusaders to entertain the students. Gradually, the campus community realized what a void the absence of the Kiltie Band had created, and the venerable Warren Mercer, director of bands at North Hills High School, was called in to review the music program at Carnegie Mellon University.

    In 1982, when the decision was made to reconstitute the Kiltie Band, names were tossed around as to who should be hired to return the Kilties to their former glory. When Mercer heard the name of the one CMU planned to hire, one of his old trumpet students, he called him with some off the record advice.

    "Don't let them put that on you." He told Mr. Paul Gerlach.

    He did.

    Director for Life "Without the Possibility for Parole"

    Mr. Gerlach was Director of Bands at Northgate High School then, and agreed to become the part time director of the Kiltie Band. The rest; they say, is history.

    He continued to teach music and band while he began the task of returning the Kiltie Band to its former glory. Initially, the Kilties performed only during the Marching season at football games. The Band was returned to official student organization status, and a constitution was written and officers elected from among the band to aid Mr. Gerlach in keeping the band running.

    A Spring Carnival concert was quickly added, and the Kilties have been the official opening act of Carnival for nearly 20 years now. Two more concerts were later added to complete the Kiltie Concert season, a Holiday concert during the last week of class of the fall semester, and a Mid Winter concert in February.

    And On

    Thanks to aggressive recruitment efforts led by Mr. Gerlach, the Kiltie Band grew tremendously in the 90s and 00s, reaching a peak membership in 2008 of over 120, only to increase to over 130 in 2011.

    In the early nineties, many important things happened that would directly shape the future of the Kiltie Band. Mr. Gerlach consented, to much astonishment and unanimous acclimation, to continue to serve as the leader of the Kiltie Band, gaining the official title of Director for Life without the Possibility for Parole. The Cheermastership was firmly established, passing hands from trombone to trombone in what remains the greatest case of political colluding since the Corrupt Bargain of 1824.

    A new tradition was added to the annals of Kiltie lore, that of the King of the Britons (and the Pantsless) Arthur, and his loyal sidekick/steed, Patsy. Drawing inspiration from the critically acclaimed 1996 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Kiltie Trumpeter Ray Strobel, wrote an arrangement of King Arthur's Quest for the band. To this day, a King takes to the track every home game between the third and fourth quarters, to quest for the Grail, with his loyal steed, Patsy.

    This last decade was a period of tremendous growth for the Kiltie Band. Under the continuing direction of Mr. Gerlach, the Band expanded to record size, with over 130 dedicated(?) members. The beginning of the 00s saw the establishment of the Anti-Cheermastership as a direct challenge to the supremacy of the Cheermaster. Dan "Old Dude" Fernandez, Anti-Cheermaster Numero Uno, has this to say about its founding "I always called them Kiltie Games" he says. "I felt it was our duty to entertain the fans, even though our football team was pretty good we were a major part [of the experience]. One year the Cheermaster was exceptionally bad," and so he started leading his own cheers.

    To Skibo Gym...

    A group of kilties gathered to play at home basketball games starting sometime in the 00s, or perhaps earlier, and a Pep Band became an officially sanctioned Kiltie activity in 2007, continuing to grow every year since. As Fernandez says with regards to both old and new Kiltie traditions, "We established traditions by experimenting, trying new things, if it works it will stay; otherwise, it goes away."

    ... and Beyond!

    In its 103rd year, the Band Without Pants continues to entertain the students at one of the most difficult colleges in the country. And if their hearts are in their work, at least the Kiltie Band can take their minds off it for an afternoon.

    ---------------------------------

    Dan Becerra, who may have had entirely too much fun writing this, is the current Vice President for Public Relations of the Kiltie Band. He would like to thank Mr. Paul Gerlach, alumnus and Director for Life, and all the alumni who contributed, especially Dean Streator, Jack Purcell, and Dan Fernandez.

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