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Gustavo Dudamel and YOLA at the Super Bowl: Too brief, but still a win

Gustavo Dudamel and YOLA at the Super Bowl: Too brief, but still a win
Members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles back Chris Martin of Coldplay during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. (Christopher Polk / Getty Images)

How disappointing was it that Gustavo Dudamel and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles were relegated to accompanying Coldplay and singing along with Chris Martin, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars? It was disappointing.

But this was a rock event. More than 99% of the viewers couldn't have had any idea who these kids were, since they weren't told. Nor was there any reason why they would be able to figure out why that guy in jeans somewhere on the stage (the ever-moving cameras didn't reveal quite where) was waving his hands.

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There was no place, and there was never going to be any place, for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director and youth orchestra to bring a little Beethoven to the millions of sports fans and commercial fanciers who tune in to one of the world's most-watched pop-culture events. YOLA’s pre-recorded contribution was mostly inaudible in the audio mix. The orchestra was there for show. But its being there made for a better show. Best of all the kids and Dudamel sure looked happy, and if you knew who they were and why they were there, maybe you were happy too.

Meanwhile, if Beethoven happened to be watching from somewhere, drinking a beer, he had reason to be happy as well. He made it all possible. It is his music, and the music of other classical composers, to which these amazing Los Angeles kids devote themselves every day. It was Beethoven, and Dudamel, who gave them the unbelievable chance to perform with Coldplay, Beyoncé and Mars for what must have been the single-largest audience any classical musician has ever faced in real time. The YOLA musicians will never forget this. They return home heroes.
 
On top of that, classical music did, in fact, get its few seconds of fame too. During the first quarter of the game, the commercial for Intel was built around Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as the musical symbol for innovation. The commercial for the game "Mobile Strike" with Arnold Schwarzenegger used the "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem as the cleverly appropriate soundtrack for death and destruction.

The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles is spotlighted in this L.A. Times report from 2015.

Twitter: @markswed

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