Allegheny Brass Band Board of Directors
Art Craft, President
Paul Halliwell, Vice-President
Dave Rollinson, Secretary
Rick Bloom, Treasurer
Ray Heller, Librarian
Teresa Huhn, Publicity
Stephen Baldanzi, Music Director (ex-officio)
Jim Muchoney, Business Manager (ex-officio)
Allegheny Brass Band Emeriti Board Members
Paul Gerlach, Music Director Emeritus
Frank Farina,* Founding Member
S. Hartley Johnston,* Founder
Al Duerig,* Founding Member
Allegheny Brass Band Mission
The mission of the Allegheny Brass Band, an ensemble of volunteer musicians, is to entertain and educate the public to the instrumentation and style of the British-style brass bands and to encourage a greater appreciation of British and American brass band traditions. The ABB will cooperate with other arts groups and organizations to promote and provide opportunities for both musicians and audience members to enhance their enjoyment of the brass band experience.
In April of 1984, about 30 amateur brass players from the Pittsburgh area gathered together to participate in a movement that was quickly sweeping the United States: the Brass Band movement, based on the British-style brass bands. From that initial group of players was formed the North Hills Brass Band with John Culp as its newly appointed Music Director. In 1987 the band changed its name to the Allegheny Brass Band to reflect the larger area which the band served. The band has traditionally drawn its members from among the finest brass players in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Professional musicians sit side by side with accountants, teachers, and businesspeople to perform the great works for brass band.
In its 25-plus year history, the Allegheny Brass Band has performed for thousands of fans in the Western Pennsylvania area and throughout the United States. In 1994, the ABB accepted an invitation from the Royal Bermuda Regiment to present a series of 4 concerts on the island of Bermuda. Under the direction of then-assistant conductor Keith Johnston, the ABB performed for standing-room-only crowds, concluding its tour with a special concert in the capital city of Hamilton for over 5,000 people. At the end of the 1995 season, John Culp announced his intent to step down as Music Director and the board appointed Frank Farina conductor while they began an intensive search which concluded in 1996 with the appointment of the young Carnegie Mellon-trained Johnston. Johnston brought to the ABB a fresh new approach to music-making. . In 1996, the band also performed in China at the invitation of the Chinese government.
After Johnson accepted a position with the Syracuse (N.Y.) Symphony, the band needed to look no further than its own cornet section for its next Music Director, Paul Gerlach, a lifelong musician who currently also directs the Carnegie-Mellon Kiltie Band as well as wind ensembles at Westminster University in Pennsylvania. In 2012, Paul stepped down and the current Music Director, Steve Baldanzi, took the podium.
As of 2021, The Allegheny Brass Band consists of a solid core of charter members as well as dedicated new recruits. In addition to a regular summer series that includes a regular performance as part of the City of Pittsburgh’s “Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch” concert series and other performances throughout Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, the band also performs throughout the year at the Pittsburgh VA Hospital, holiday concerts, and a concert in the fall with the North Hills High School Music Department. The Allegheny Brass Band is proud to sponsor a scholarship to a North Hills High School Band Member every year. The band is currently a member of Association of Concert Bands and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
British Brass Band Tradition
The British brass band tradition dates back to 19th century England, and has since spread to continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and North America. Brass bands in the UK today revolve their performing around competition, with many communities sponsoring their own band. The oldest civil brass band in the United Kingdom, The Stalybridge Old Band, was founded in 1809. The rise of the brass band was very much a result of the Industrial Revolution, which not only created a working class, but also developed the technological capabilities to build higher quality brass instruments. Some industries sponsored their own brass bands, and a few live on today, including but not limited to The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band, and The Black Dyke Mills Band.
The brass band become popular in the United States in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, with most towns sponsoring their own bands. The movement experienced a resurgence in the late 20th century, being led and organized by the North American Brass Band Association. There are a number of professional, amateur, and collegiate brass bands in the United States today, including the Pittsburgh area’s own River City Brass (modified British brass band style), the Slippery Rock University Brass Ensemble, and, of course, the Allegheny Brass Band. There are a number of competitions held in the United States today, including The Great American Brass Festival, the Ohio Brass Arts Festival, and the Mid-Atlantic Brass Festival.
There are a number of composers who are known for writing music for the British brass band, including Phillip Sparke, Gordon Jacob, Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Goff Richards, Martin Ellerby, and many others. Orchestral and wind band composers have also written music specifically for brass band, including Gustav Holst, Malcolm Arnold, Edward Elgar, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The instrumentation of the brass band is as follows: a soprano cornet, B-flat cornets (in lieu of trumpets), a flugelhorn, tenor horns (also called alto horns, in lieu of “French” horns), baritone horns, trombones, a bass trombone, euphoniums, tubas, and percussion. All instruments in the band, excluding the bass trombone, read treble clef, while the tuba section is divided between B-flat and E-flat parts.