The Ambridge Area High School Steel Drum Band, under the direction of Todd Hartman, has received regional and national recognition for its outstanding musical ability, unique style, and infectious energy. The ensemble was founded in 1987 by Sal Aloe, former long-time Ambridge band director. The late Richard Zana took over the band a few years later and during the 1990s, he took the program to a new level of popularity that went way beyond "Bridger Country." Following Mr. Zana's retirement in 1999, Todd Hartman took over and has been leading the program ever since.
Since its inception, the steel band program has grown from five students participating after school to an average of eighty band students, grades 9-12, enrolled in three levels of classes spread over four periods during the school day. For the past sixteen years, the traveling performing group has developed into one of the most sought after high school ensembles in the area, averaging forty to fifty shows annually. Their repertoire reflects a diverse collection of styles including traditional Calypso & Soca, Swing, Afro-Cuban and Latin-Jazz, Classical, and Pop-Rock.
The steel band was one of only three high school groups from across the nation selected to perform at two of the American Association of School Administrators National Conferences, one of which gave them an opportunity to open up for Steven Spielberg's keynote address in San Francisco. Additionally, they have been to three National School Board Association Conferences, and recently, performed for over nine thousand engineers and vendors from all over the world at the annual Association for Iron and Steel Technology's International Conference. The band has shared the Heinz Hall stage with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops and has appeared annually in B.E. Taylor's popular Christmas show. Since 2002, the steel band has been invited to perform outreach assemblies at thirty two different school districts located around the Pittsburgh area and has performed at twelve different institutions of higher learning. The most prestigious accomplishment to date came when they played with the marching band in the 2004 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. It marked the first time in the 115 year history of the parade that a steel drum band collaborated with a marching band in the same unit.