The Balcony Big Band

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The Balcony Big Band

Balcony Big Band performing on stage. The Balcony Big Band is an 18-member modern jazz ensemble that has established itself as a Pittsburgh musical institution since its inception in 1988. 

In an effort to model the jazz clubs of New York City, the owners of The Balcony club in Shadyside requested that HB Bennett, a Pittsburgh drummer who booked bands for the club, form a big band to perform on Monday nights.

Due to stage size restrictions, the original Balcony Big Band had only 12 members.

The band focused on modern jazz ensemble repertoire, performing compositions by Thad Jones, Bob Mintzer, Rob McConnell and others. 

Soon, the club expanded, and so did the band. In 1993 the Balcony Big Band recorded a studio album titled “Seasoned to Taste.” The band continued Monday night performances until the club’s closing in December 1997.  

Soon after, the Balcony Big Band moved to Foster’s in the Oakland Holiday Inn, a residency that lasted for only a few years. Next the band sought new homes at the James Street Café, Club Café, and eventually the Chapel of Blues, where they enjoyed a two-year stint until the club’s closing in 2003. 

The band was without venue for nearly 10 years, until November 2012, when trumpeter Joe Herndon reconstructed the group for a weekly Monday night performances at Jergel’s in Warrendale. 

The current Balcony Big Band contains several of the group’s original 1998 members, as well as many alumni from the various phases of the band and several completely new members. The band continues to perform the music of the modern jazz ensemble repertoire, including works by the aforementioned composers as well as Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider, and composer/arranger band members Ralph Guzzi, Raymond DeFade, and Steve McKnight. 


  • Saxophones: Jason Kush, Raymond DeFade, Eric DeFade, Rick Matt, Joe Scheller
  • Trumpets: Joe Herndon, Steve McKnight, Dave Wingenbach, Ralph Guzzi
  • Trombones: Bob Matchett, Ross Garin, Kevin McManus, Chris Carson
  • Rhythm: John Burgh, Paul Thompson, Dave Glover, George Jones

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Tickets will be available at Cal U on the day of the festival; no advance ticket sales are planned. Members of the campus community will be admitted free with a valid CalCard.

Parking is included in the ticket price, and food can be purchased on campus.

Less than an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, California University is easy to reach via major highways and Toll Route 43. 

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