Photo: The first of two annual auditions for the Pittsburgh Steeline, the
official drumline of the Pittsburgh Steelers, took place on June 2.

Members of Pittsburgh Steeline, the official drumline of the Pittsburgh Steelers, hold auditions every year for 25 spots. The group is “part of Steelers culture.”

By Alexander Oh

“Let’s take it from the top,” says a large, bearded man in the center of the room. A high-pitched metronome sets the beat and a drummer begins to play. Soon after, all the other drummers join in unison, filling the room with thunderous and rhythmic percussion. A few judges pace along the U-shaped wall of drummers, carefully watching for any mistakes.

On June 2, the Pittsburgh Steeline, the official drumline of the Pittsburgh Steelers, held the first of its auditions at the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh. Since returning members must also audition each year, all 25 spots in the ensemble were open for the season with roughly 30 participants in attendance.

Founded in 2012, the Pittsburgh Steeline performs at all 10 of the Steelers home games as well as at parades, charity events, corporate functions, and Steelers special events.

“It’s become part of Steelers culture and what you can expect to see when you come to a game,” says Vince Wallace, owner and director of the Pittsburgh Steeline. “I think it really uplifts and excites people and enhances the enjoyment of the experience.”

As owner and director, Wallace manages the organization, books performances, oversees rehearsals, writes music, and is a liaison with the Steelers. He’s a drummer himself, with 21 years of experience under his belt, as well as a music teacher for Propel Schools and a freelance musician.

Performing with the Pittsburgh Steeline requires more than just a good handle on drumming. In addition to musicianship, each member is expected to entertain and engage with an audience. Three-hour rehearsals take place every Wednesday night that focus just as much on the music as the movement and presentation.

“Becoming a full-time member is a lot like stepping onto a moving treadmill because as soon as you pass the audition and accept a spot, if you’re a new person, you have a lot of music to learn right off the bat,” says Mike Beck, one of two snare section leaders and founding member of the Pittsburgh Steeline.

The Steeline gives part-time musicians in the Pittsburgh area an opportunity to continue playing the drums in a professional setting. If they are Steelers Fans, it gives them a chance to represent and support the team they love.

“I was involved in drumline in middle school, high school, and college,” says Tony, an auditioner. “Recently having graduated and starting a real job, I was trying to find an outlet to keep doing it so I did a little bit of research and found out about this organization.”

“Everyone is here for their own reason,” says Wallace. “Some people just really like the team, some people just want to drum, some people like the financial side of it but at the end of the day, everybody comes together to create the great product: music that people love.”