Pitt Band brings new flair to old tradition


Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer

A minor throwback is making a major comeback this year at Pitt’s homecoming football game.

Every year, Pitt’s homecoming halftime show features Pitt band alumni and their current counterparts performing in step in the March of Victory. But this year’s show will have a bit of a twist.

During halftime of the homecoming game against University of Virginia on Oct. 10, nearly 150 Pitt band and Golden Girls alumni will get to reenact a tradition they had when they were in school, with current Pitt students and fans. The band will perform a field formation of the Pitt script logo instead of the contemporary block-lettered “Pitt” formation.

This particular halftime routine has not been a part of the band’s repertoire since the original Pitt Stadium was still standing in 1999. Led by band director Brad Townsend and senior leaders Susie Smithmyer and Brian Urbaniak, the Pitt band is ready to give the Heinz Field crowd an oldie but goodie.

“The band will start out in block formation in the end zone,” said Townsend, who is entering his third year as director. “Then the drum major will lead everyone around and the Pitt script will form, then the alumni band will make the dot on the ‘i.’”

A new routine led by one person on homecoming weekend surely carries its pressures. But senior drum major Urbaniak is up for the challenge, keeping in mind that it is just another routine to master.

“You know, the alums come back and they [jokingly] say ‘we marched better,’ or ‘we played better,’ we just want to make sure the band is sharp that day,” Townsend said.

Urbaniak found his niche with the Pitt band early freshman year and instantly fell in love with its role in the Pitt community.

“There’s always a lot of pressure on me,” Urbaniak said. “I internalize it. The field is the same size as the field we practice on — I just try to do my job well like I do in practice. I’ll be nervous, but it’s really cool to be a big part of this.”

Courtesy ULS Archives
Courtesy ULS Archives

Not only will the band be showcasing a new routine, but the Pitt majorette squad, otherwise referred to as the Golden Girls, will be celebrating its 40-year anniversary during homecoming weekend by staging a special halftime performance as well — one that it is keeping under wraps.

For senior Golden Girl Smithmyer, being a member of such a long-standing tradition has been extraordinary.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world because the Golden Girls started out with big fluffy hair and crazy costumes and they just kind of did stick work,” Smithmyer said. “Over the years, our advisors helped us really expand, and now we’re doing really great tricks.”

Smithmyer, an Altoona, Pennsylvania, native, has been a baton twirler since she was four years old. When she was looking at colleges she was searching for a school that was close to home but far enough away that she could be independent. She yearned for a school that had a strong majorette program — enter the University of Pittsburgh.

Over the past three years, Smithmyer has found a family in her Golden Girls group and has come to look forward to the rush of game days the most.

“I love the feeling of performing for crowds on Saturdays,” Smithmyer said. “It’s so exhilarating to run out of [the tunnel] with everybody cheering for you.”

Courtesy ULS Archives
Courtesy ULS Archives

Townsend looks forward to interacting with alumni band members about their own homecoming experiences and hopes to make the Pitt script routine an annual tradition at Heinz Field, like it once was in Pitt Stadium.

“It’s really awesome to be part of a tradition and be a part of something that’s been alive for longer than I’ve been,” Urbaniak said. “You have more of a connection with what is here now and what will be here after.”

On her senior homecoming, Smithmyer said she anticipates returning as an alum in years to come.

“It’s crazy that it’s coming to an end [this year],” Smithmyer said. “But I have the joy of coming back as an alumnus year after year. I have something to come back to. Even when I’m 50 and 60 years old I can always say I was a Pitt Golden Girl.”

Editor’s Note: In a previous version this story, a quote from Brad Townsend, which read, “You know, the alums come back and they [jokingly] say ‘we marched better,’ or ‘we played better,’ we just want to make sure the band is sharp that day,” was mistakenly attributed to Brian Urbaniak. The Pitt News regrets this error.