DiCeaser-Engler productions, one the top grossing concert promoters in the U.S., brought great music to the Pittsburgh area for over 20 years. Their centerpiece venue the Stanley Theatre was named the top concert theather in the country by Billboard Magazine. They presented a broad range of popular music concerts at small clubs, the Stanley Theater, The Syria Mosque, the AJ Palumbo Center, the I.C. Light Amphitheater, the Civic Arena, the Star Lake Amphitheater, and Three Rivers stadium. In 1997 the Pittsburgh Post Gazette ranked Pat DiCesare and Rich Engler number 3 in its list of “Top 50 Culture Brokers”. For a generation of Pittsburgh rock fans DiCesare-Engler Productions gave them a Golden Age of great concerts.
Formed in 1973, DiCesare-Engler Productions was a merger of Pat DiCesare Productions and Rich Engler’s Go Attractions. Pat DiCesare began promoting concerts in the early 1950s with his friend and mentor Tom Tormey. DiCesare and Tormey brought the Beatles to Pittsburgh in September 1964. During the 1960s’ and early 1970’s DiCesare promoted most of the big name concerts at the Civic Arena and Three Rivers including shows with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Who, Three Dog Night, and Alice Cooper. Beginning in the 1970s Rich Engler’s Go Attractions booked concerts in colleges, in larger cities in Western Pennsylvania such as Erie and Johnstown and also at the Civic arena. Upon the merger Rich handled the bookings and Pat focused on the venues and real estate. Ed Travesari who joined them in 1975 became the marketing/promotions manager and then a partner in 1984.
In 1977 DiCesare-Engler purchased the historic stately Stanley Theatre. During the 1930’s and 1940’s the Stanley had been the top venue for the big touring swing bands. Billy Strayhorn, Jerry Fielding, and Henry Mancini started their careers there working with the Stanley’s Orchestra director Max Atkins. When Pat and Rich purchased it, the ornate Stanley was a dying 3,500 seat movie palace. DiCesare-Engler quickly turned it a heavily booked concert venue making it the number one grossing auditorium in the country. With affordable tickets and good seats it was the place to go for rock, fusion jazz, and reggae concerts. It's busy schedule offered a steady stream of great shows, sometimes with the 3 concerts in one week. The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Police, Talking Heads, Prince Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, Todd Rundgren, Weather Report, Devo, The Pretenders, AC/DC, Van Halen, Rush, Queen, Kiss, Ozzy Ozbourne .Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins,Prince and Bob Marley were among the many memorable shows held there. Begin in 1986 DiCesare-Engler held outdoor concert events and festivals at the IC Light Amphitheatre at Station Square. Each fall Rich Engler enjoyed working with Tom Savini (The Living Dead make-up master) to design scary attractions for the Fright Fest.
Looking for a home for the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust purchased the Stanley in 1983. The Stanley was reduced in size from 3,500 to 2,000 seats and renamed the Benedum. Pat DiCesare commented about the Stanley in a Pittsburgh Post Gazette interview:
"I really miss the Stanley Theatre," he says. "The Benedum is great, but we were the people's theatre. We played events there in a nice facility that the majority wanted to see. The opera is nice. The symphony is great. But it appeals to a small segment of the population."
DCesare Engler moved their auditorium concerts the historic Syria Mosque that had been the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1926 until 1971. They held their concerts at the 3,700 seat concert hall until the Masonic Temple sold the building to the University of Pittsburgh. The Mosque fell to the wrecking ball to make way for a fabulous black-top parking lot. Driven by Pittsburgh’s cultural leaders from two historic auditoriums Pittsburgh rock shows were banished to a gymnasium with bleacher seats, the A.J. Palumbo Center. Using the proceeds of the Stanley sale, in 1986 DiCesare-Engler purchased 500 acres of land near Cranberry with plans to build a 7,500 seat covered amphitheater with 12,500 lawn seats, along with a mall, water park, and children’s park. Hampered by strict zoning laws and local resistance, their plans to open the amphitheater were delayed. Pace Entertainment beat them to the punch and opened the 22,000 seat Star Lake Amphitheater in 1990. But DiCeaser-Engler promoted concerts at Star Lake for several years. Branching out into other markets DiCeaser-Engler also promoted shows at The Bud Light Amphitheatre in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and The Aladdin Theater in Las Vegas.
In 1998 the DiCesare-Engler was purchased by the entertainment company SFX. Along with DiCesare-Engler SFX acquired the most of the major concert promotions firms in the U.S. SFX also acquired the Star Lake Amphitheater and all of the outdoor venues that had been owned by Pace Entertainment. Pat DiCesare left the concert business with the sale to SFX in 1998. Clear Channel Radio purchased SFX in 2000. Rich Engler left Clear Channel Entertainment in 2004. The entertainment division of Clear Channel was “spun off” become Live Nation in 2005.
Pat DiCesare was born in 1938 Trafford, Pa. into an Italian family of 9 siblings. His father who emigrated from Italy worked for Westinghouse Electric. As a teenager Pat wrote songs and sang in a Doo Wop band called "The Penn Boys." He became the band’s manager and song writer. The band recorded Pat’s original song “Gonna Have a Party” in 1957 and give at tape to DJ Jay Michaels of WCAE radio. Liking the recording, Jay invited the group to audition for a record producer at the WCAE studios. The Penn Boys auditioned for Joe Averbach, the manager of the Del Vikings and owner of the RB&S record distributorship. Joe told Pat “I like your songs, but not your singing group”. He asked Pat if the Del Vikings could record his songs. The Del Vikings released two of DiCesare’s songs in 1958: “You Say You Love Me” and “I'm Spinning”, which received airplay around the country. Later in 1958 Pat started a record label called Bobby Records which released Bobby Vinton’s first recordings “Halellujah I Love Her So" and "Twilight Time." After he graduated from Trafford High, DiCesare, attended Youngstown State for a while before taking a job at the Westinghouse East Pittsburgh plant.
Wanting to work in the music business Pat asked Joe Averbach where he could get a job. Joe introduced Pat to Tom Tormey another Pittsburgh area record distributor. Leaving Westinghouse after a few months, Pat took a job as a stock boy in Tormey’s distribution business. Tormey also promoted packaged concert tours called the ”Shower of Stars” featuring several hit recording artists. Pat worked on Tormey's shows booking local musicians to back up the stars, organizing rehearsals, and managing the stage. After Tormey left Pittsburgh to work with Dick Clark Productions in Hollywood, DiCesare promoted concerts on his own. He booked his first concert in 1962 with the Four Freshmen at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown, Ohio. He named his company “University Attractions,” later changing it to “Pat DiCesare Productions.” Overtime he negotiated exclusive leases for the Civic Arena, Syria Mosque, and Three Rivers Stadium, promoting most of the large rock concerts in Western Pennsylvania. Merging with Rick Engler in 1973 he was a co-owner of DiCesare Engler productions until its sale to SFX in 1998. He became CEO of the Pittsburgh Regatta Management Group for two years, before retiring.
Rich Engler, who grew up in Creighton, Pa, started playing drums while a junior at Deer Lakes High School. After high school he started a band called the Grains of Sand that played area clubs. He also did some recording session work. It is reported that in 1965 Rich played drums on the recording session of the Vogues no. 4 Billboard hit "Five O'Clock World". In the early 1970s Rich formed the band “Phweet Phwew” (the name sounded a 1930’s wolf whistle). Joining drummer Engler in the band were Hermie Granati,(a future member of the Jaggerz, the Granati Brothers, Jaggerz, and B.E. Taylor bands), guitarist Max Kendrick from Montgomery Alabama, and bassist Skinny Bishop who later played with a series of bands including Gino Vannelli and Bobby Vinton. The group became popular and started getting more offers for college auditorium shows than they could play. Engler started a booking company called Go Attractions to booking other bands for their extra dates. He also booked national acts such Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, and Yes for dates at venues in Erie, Johnstown, Hagerstown, Altoona, and the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. Phweet Phwew opened many of those shows including appearances with David Bowie at the Civic Arena, Yes in Erie and shows with King Crimson, UFO, Bob Seger, Mike Quattro, and Sha Na Na. As the booking business grew Rich put his sticks aside to focus on Go Attractions. Rich’s success caught the attention of his competitor Pat DiCesare. Pat called Rich in 1973 proposing that they join forces splitting the profits 50-50. Thus DiCesare- Engler was born to launch a golden age of rock concerts in Pittsburgh. With two driven promoters DiCesare-Engler became one of the top twenty grossing concert promotion companies in the US. When SFX Entertainment bought DiCesare-Engler Productions in 1998, Rich stay on as president and CEO of SFX Pittsburgh, and executive director of the I.C. Light Amphitheatre. He continued to book artists. Engler retired from the music business leaving Clear Channel Entertainment in 2004. Rich is now a vice president at Target Energy a coal drilling company.
Ed Travesari was the third partner in DiCesare Engler Productions. Growing up in Dunlevy, Pa., Ed learned the drums and played in several bands while at Charleroi High School. As student activities president at Robert Morris University Traversari booked local bands for college events. Bringing Roy Buchanan to the Moon Campus for a show, Ed caught the show biz bug. After graduating from college, Ed answered an in the paper and began his career at DiCeasare-Engler in 1975 at age 22. He started out as a production assistant (aka runner) who did any job that was assigned to him, including picking up bands at the airport, answering the phones, and buying ads. Through hard work, smarts, and love of his job he rose to become a partner in 1984. Over his career he served as a talent buyer, the director of marketing, a production manager, and General Manager of the Chevrolet Amphitheatre at Station Square. In his marketing days he was heard frequently on WDVE and other Pittsburgh area radio station making concert announcements. He produced and booked the annual Irish and Italian Festivals that were held at the Station Square Amphitheater. After DiCesare Engler Productions was purchased by SFX Entertainment and later Clear Channel / Live Nation, Ed stayed on in marketing and operations positions. He left Live Nation to start his own entertainment marketing consultancy and to teach. Travesari is a Professional in Residence teacher in Point Park University’s Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management (SAE) program. Ed also consults on various entertainment projects including working with HJD Enterprises to produce PBS television concerts, along with marketing of events for Heinz Hall, The Amphitheatre at Station Square and The Irish Festival at Sandcastle Water Park.
Brought a Golden Age of Rock Concerts to Pittsburgh at the Stanley Theater