Having now taken Level 1 classes at both the Magnet and PIT, I can say without hesitation: they’re both good, it just depends what you’re into.
Everyone I’ve talked to from both sides gushes about how great their respective communities are. Magnet people love the Magnet community, PIT people love the PIT community. (Everyone says the UCB community is kind of filled with dicks. I don’t know, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.)
Both of my Level 1 classes were filled with awesome, sweet, open, enthusiastic, and naturally funny people, all with varying levels of experience. (This is luck of the draw, though.)
While UCB is known for having a very structured, rules-based philosophy, both my Magnet and PIT (Level 1) experiences were pretty touchy-feely, more about having fun, more about getting used to playing with each other, offering guidelines and advice and thoughts.
For example, the “Don’t ask questions” rule came up in both classes, and in both classes it was offered as a guideline rather than a hard rule. So when we DO find ourselves asking a question, we don’t start flagellating ourselves for being so stupid as to break a simple rule (thereby flustering both ourselves and our scene partner); instead, we just realize, “oh, whoops, I asked a question, which put my partner on the spot. I’ll add to what I just said to help them out.” And eventually we remember not to do it in the first place.
I don’t know whether I’m comparing school philosophies or just the philosophies of my individual instructors, but on the subject of teachers: I recommend both Rick Andrews at the Magnet and Bradford Jordan at the PIT. They are both phenomenally warm and encouraging and non-judgmental, which is what a lot of us need when we’re starting out. And they both give good notes. I can’t speak for other instructors.
Honestly, from my experience, I’m not sure how I would differentiate the schools, big-picture. I’ve heard that Magnet scenes are about building and focusing on relationships, but that was an underlying theme of my PIT class, too.
Because (a) the Magnet is more convenient for me (it is literally on my way home), and (b) I started at the Magnet, so my Magnet social circle has been percolating longer, I will probably continue with the Magnet for now. Nothing against the PIT. It’s just on the other side of town. And all its jams are too late at night. And they charge $10 for class shows. (But their class shows ARE on a proper stage, not a modified classroom, so they totally get points there.)