South Fayette Band Alumni Association seeks fellow musicians

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It is said that families who play together, stay together. And like family, some alumni band members of South Fayette High School have reunited and are adding fuel to the high school band, known as the "Little Green Machine."

The South Fayette Band Alumni Association will make its first appearance at the high school band festival Sept.29 at the South Fayette stadium.

The group of 60-plus alumni members is recruiting more alumni to perform a five-song halftime show that will feature favorite dance moves that have been part of the band's performances since its beginning 65 years ago.

The purpose of the group goes beyond reliving the glory days of the band that wowed stadiums with energetic steps. Through donations and membership dues and a spring concert, the association has raised more than $5,000 since its inception last August. That's enough to award two $500 scholarships in the name of the band's first two directors, Dominic Scacchitti and John Testa. The group also purchased a mellophone and contributed to the high school band's Angel Fund, which assists students with paying for a yearly trip.

"It's awesome. ... In the first year, they have been so supportive of the transition of a new [high school] director and the program itself," said high school band director, Eryn Carranza who just completed her first year in that position.

The group formed after association president, Ryan Wolf, class of 2004, met alumna, Marylee Ainsworthe class of 1981, on Facebook. They discovered that they had the band in common and that since its beginning in 1947, band members have been like a family. Graduates remain close.

"We decided to pull our resources and organize our passion for this organization," Mr. Wolf said.

Two former directors -- who are also South Fayette alumni -- have volunteered to direct the alumni band. Clem Rolin, class of 1964, directed the band from 1990-2003 and Michael Mackey, class of 2000, led from 2003-11.

Alumni are scheduled to perform the theme from "American Bandstand" and will try some moves from the iconic Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. The band will also perform the ballad "The Dance" by Garth Brooks. "The steps will be as simple as possible," Mr. Wolf promised.

The goal for the upcoming performance is to "hold it together for one night and to have a great time and show support for the South Fayette Community," Mr. Rolin said.

"We used to get standing ovations and just uplift people. We knew we had 10 minutes of these people's lives and if we could get them on their feet, that was our goal," he said.

Florine Rolin met her husband Paul, Clem Rolin's brother, while she was in the band in the early 1950s -- back when there was no band room and Director Scacchitti gave music lessons in the school's boiler room.

"It was so cold [students] had to wear their coats," she said.

The band maintains several standards set by Mr. Scacchitti, explained Mrs. Rolin. It was comprised of mostly musicians with only a few majorettes who were required to play an instrument for one year before auditioning to twirl. That rule still applies.

"The emphasis was on quality musicianship," Mrs. Rolin said.

In the 1950s, the highlight of the season was Friday night football games. Similar to today's uniforms, the band wore green jackets with white overlays and black pants. The majorettes wore pleated skirts -- "short, but not too short!" -- and twirled batons with battery operated lights.

"We just thought that was the thing," Mrs. Rolin said.

But mostly, she said, the organization has preserved the integrity for which it stood in the beginning. "I think it's going to happen for future generations," she said.

One major difference from the old days is that the little green machine isn't so little any more.

When Mr. Wolf graduated eight years ago, the high school band had 75 members. The population growth of the area and increased interest in the program have helped current numbers rise to more than 90 students.

Many alumni have kept up with practicing their instruments and some play professionally in bands and in clubs.

"What we were playing was high energy. I hope we get some of that energy from the alumni. It's a great reunion. We all have shared these feelings," Mr. Rolin said.

Details: Ryan Wolf at 412-667-1150.

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Laurie Bailey, freelance writer:


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