|Jack R. Anderson|
A new era for the Pitt Bands began in the fall of 1995 when the students returned to classes to find Jack R. Anderson had been named the "interim" director of bands. The preceding summer found the Pitt Bands with a vacancy at its head position when O'Neill Sanford resigned the position for unknown reasons. With tremendous support for Jack Anderson from band students and alumni, Oval Jaynes, Athletic Director, made the decision to appoint him temporarily until a search for a permanent director could be made.
With Jack at the helm, a new direction was taken in marching drill. The band decided to switch from traditional flank and 8 to 5 step to the newer free-flowing "corps style" marching, although pregame and some halftime numbers still remained traditional. The Marching Band would again be cheering for a losing Pitt football team, but all was overshadowed by the exciting new renovations that occurred. Yet another change was the relocation of the band's facilities from Bellefield Hall to the stadium, into the old weight room, The Pitt Iron Works which was vacated when the football team's facilities moved into the new Duratz Athletic Complex. This year the Band would also see the Panthers on the road against Boston College. While staying at a hotel near Providence Rhode Island, the students would be able to visit Boston after the Panther game which included a high energy halftime performance of the Band, as well as a post game session.
The Concert Band traveled on a relatively shorter trip staying at Caesar's Palace in New Jersey. The Band performed at a few high schools in that area, mostly alma maters of some of the Concert Band students. Despite the inclement weather, a good time was had by all. The Concert Band also tried different pieces this year, including "Fly Away Home" and an original composition from Concert Band Member, trumpet player, Jeff Novotny, entitled "Wanderlust". The Pitt Band would be notified during the Concert Band season that Jack R. Anderson had been named full time Director of Bands.
The 1996-1997 season began with more disappointing losses by the football team, but to see the members of the Pitt Band, you would hardly be able to tell. The Band's morale was at an all time high. Due to widespread recruiting efforts by Anderson and his staff, the band had a freshman class of 80 members, bringing total enrollment to around 200. Band Camp was changed so these 80 new members would learn their marching basics at Pitt Stadium before making the trip with the upperclassmen to Pitt-Bradford for the rest of camp. This year's day trip was to Ohio State. With the OSU Band's reputation for excellence, the band was unsure how it would fare with "The Big Boys" during a pregame "Skull" session.
The determination and discipline of the Pitt Band shocked the OSU fans and the sound won over several standing ovations, which rumor says has never been given to a visiting band before. On that day, the Pitt Band reclaimed its place with the elite of college bands. The other trip was to Notre Dame. While the team did its same losing routine, the band enjoyed the fun of halftime and fraternizing in Chicago.
The Pep Band that year would have their annual trip to New York City for the Big East Basketball Tournament. Due to the coaching effort of Ralph Willard, the Panthers had a winning season, a feat that has not happened in several years. Much to the Pep Band's delight, the Panthers also won the first round of the Big East Tourney, and combined with their decent season, won them a bid to the NIT Tournament.
The 1997 season culminated with a trip to Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl, which would seemingly bode well for the team and the band, the 1998 season was a disaster with less than 6 wins. The band however was on an upswing with growing numbers and more enthusiasm. Also in 1998/1999, the Pitt band sent 2 representatives to the National Honors Band: Colin Reinhard, alto saxophone, and Kimberly Heller, flute. These were the first representatives in multiple years, and were the only non-music majors in the entire Honors band.
In 1999, the Pitt band and Pitt football would be changed forever, for this would be the last season in Pitt Stadium. This final season in the 70+ year-old stadium was highlighted with a 37-27 win over Notre Dame, the last game in the stadium, and a personal victory for the band when a standing ovation was received on the march back to the busses from the Penn State game.
The 2000 season was played in Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was also scheduled for destruction. This season not only ended with a trip to Phoenix, Arizona to the Insight.com Bowl, but marked a temporary end to the Pitt/Penn State rivalry, with a Pitt victory of 12-0.
The 2001 season started a new tradition in the newly built Heinz Stadium, sharing the facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season was capped off by a victory over North Carolina State in the re-established Tangerine Bowl, in Orlando, Florida. The 2001-02 Pitt men's basketball team, accompanied by a 50-member pep band, also enjoyed a great year in the last season of the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse, finishing second in the Big East Tournament and reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 in Lexington, Kentucky. They enter into the 2002-03 campaign ranked as high as 5th in the nation in preseason polls.
The 2002 season was the first time the Panthers had been in the same stadium two years in a row since the 1998-99 seasons, and was a season of success not seen since the early 1980's. The football team went 8-4 during regular season play, and capped of the season by its third bowl game in three years, and a return to the Insight Bowl. Unfortunately the athletic department was unable to send the entire band to Arizona, but many members did skip Christmas with there families in order to get to the game and see another Pitt Bowl Victory. The Pep Band in 2003 was larger than ever before, with 60 musicians attending every game. The Pep band after watching the Team lose in the Big East Championship game the two previous years, finally saw a Big East Championship Victory, followed by a second consecutive trip into the Sweet 16.