Kiltie Band History
And now we are proud to present the history of the Kiltie Band that
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 111th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kiltie Band began, as the story goes, in 1908 with a group of just
seven students, and now, in 2019, consists of well over 100 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
the Britons (and the Pantsless) Arthur, and his loyal sidekick/steed,
Patsy. Drawing inspiration from the critically
acclaimed 1975 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 111th 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.
Archit Amal Sahay 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