BALTIMORE — It may be unfathomable to fans in western Pennsylvania, but according to local native Todd Clontz, it is possible: Transitioning from a Pitts-burgh Steelers fan to — get this — a Baltimore Ravens fan.
“I grew up in the 1970s and watched Terry Bradshaw and the boys,” he said Friday. “I remember the Super Bowls back then — definitely the third and fourth ones.
“I remember going to opening day here, Black & Gold in 1998,” Clontz said. “But when I returned in 1999 or 2000, it was Black & Purple. To tell you the truth, it’s an easy transition because the people are really good, the fans are really good, and I get to be more involved behind the scenes. The transition is good.”
Clontz, a 1987 graduate of Punxsutawney Area High School, has easy access to the behind-the-scenes happenings of the Baltimore Ravens, because he is the musical director of one of the team’s largest — and loudest — fan bases, the Marching Ravens.
“Granted, we are not a competing band; we are kind of our own unique thing,” Clontz said. “We’re there to entertain, and I pick music that’s entertaining. We don’t have to try to win trophies. We do what we need to do to move the band around so it looks good. We’re not locked into some 15- to 16-minute show.”
As musical director for the Marching Ravens, Clontz is responsible for all performance aspects of the band, including pre-game and half-time entertainment. That entails picking music, approving shows and making sure the timing is such that it adheres to the NFL’s guidelines for commercial air time.
The band performs five- to six-minute pieces during pre-game and half-time at Ravens home games, and every performance is different each week.
Sometimes, it can be a bit tricky.
Last Thursday, as the Ravens were facing the Redskins in a pre-season game, an approaching storm caused officials to clear the field.
By the time the weather had cleared, the players were late getting back to the field, yet the band had eight minutes to perform its pre-game show.
“The band was coming on, and I looked at the clock because you have to be done at the right time for ESPN,” Clontz said. “I literally had to change the show while they were performing it. I cut a minute and 40 seconds, with two seconds to spare.”
He said the eyes of every band member were on him as he walked the sidelines, changing the show before them.
“They are that used to paying attention, and that used to anything happening at any time,” Clontz said.
Not only does the band help to rally Ravens fans, it’s also been known to rattle opposing teams over the years, which caused some changes to the NFL rulebook — something the Marching Ravens take credit for.
“If you look in the rule-book, it’s either called ‘designated noisemakers’ or ‘professional noisemakers,’” Clontz said. “They rewrote a rule that a team could not employ ‘professional noisemakers’ to distract teams when the play clock is running.
“We did terrible things to teams ... Tennessee,” he said, referring to the Titans’ 20-10 loss in 2000 that led Baltimore to face Oakland in the AFC playoffs and eventually its win against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. “Most of Tennessee was our fault. We caused offside calls, balls flying past receivers’ faces.”
First established in 1947, the Marching Ravens — which has performed with the band Buckcherry, in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for presidential events and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra — includes all-volunteer members from all walks of life: High school students, educators, lawyers, retirees and more from the ages of 14 through 70-plus.
“It’s all volunteer, so it changes every week, and I have to make those adjustments,” Clontz said. “On game day, we rehearse in the morning, and I’m saying, ‘Move this person over, straighten this line ...’”
Aside from game day, the band rehearses only once a week — one night for three hours, he said. While compiling a study of the band’s schedule a two years ago, Clontz found that while the band averages 16 performances a year, it rehearses for only 100 hours a year.
Clontz has played music since he was a fourth-grader at Big Run Elementary School and started thinking seriously about music as a career as a sophomore in high school.
“I really got to like it and decided, this might be a cool thing to do for a living,” he said.
He cited playing with the Punxsy Area High School music groups as “one of the best parts of high school,” under the direction of now-retired director James Colonna.
“Mr. Colonna kept us busy,” he said. “He loved us, and we played at every sporting event. There was never one time that the band was not totally respected.”
A graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in music education, Clontz moved to the Baltimore area in 1994 after he found it hard to find teaching jobs near home.
While in college, be performed minor repairs and made small parts for instruments, thanks to a mechanical mind and having worked at Paradise Cycle in Sykesville. He also makes and designs instruments and went into business for himself as the owner of Rosso Music Center in Brooklyn Park, Md., where he performs, educates and serves local and international musicians.
Clontz joined the Marching Ravens as a trombonist in 1999. During the 2000 season, he advanced to the position of associate musical director, and at the beginning of the 2001 season, he was promoted to musical director.
He was courted by members of the band — including the outgoing musical director at the time — because they used the services provided by his shop. At that time, he described himself as “a band director without a band.”
Clontz also performs regularly and has played with numerous area organizations, as well as performing on many commercially-released compact discs by both the Keystone Wind Ensemble and the Blue Moon Big Band.
Clontz credits former team owner Art Modell and his family with establishing today’s Marching Ravens, after the former Baltimore Colts departed to Indianapolis in 1984. In 1996, Modell moved his NFL franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore, and the Ravens were born.
The Baltimore Colts’ Marching Band performed without a football team from 1984 to 1998, its final performance in 1998. The new Marching Ravens debuted Aug. 8 that year at the opening of the new football stadium at Camden Yards for the Ravens-Bears pre-game season.
“The Modells really valued the college atmosphere; they valued the fun and the tradition,” Clontz said. “They really liked the idea of when you came here, here’s one of Baltimore’s tradition, where you would walk into a place and have your own band. Here’s a band waiting for a football team.”
Clontz met his wife, Jennifer, at IUP, and she was also a former drum major for the Marching Ravens. They have two children, Abigail and Adam.
He also visits home from time to time: His father, Harry, resides in Brockway, while his uncle, Mike Selczak, resides in Stump Creek. His mother, Deborah, passed away a few years ago.
His transition from a Steelers fan into a Ravens fan may have occurred years ago, but Clontz indicated that not all of his football loyalties moved south with him.
“If the Ravens aren’t winning or aren’t going to the Super Bowl, I don’t mind seeing another team doing it,” he said.