As a fan of classical music, Chris Martin of the rock band Coldplay has attended Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall over the years and even struck up a friendship with conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
So when NFL leaders tapped Coldplay to headline the Super Bowl 50 halftime show next month in Santa Clara, Calif., Martin turned to Dudamel to join him onstage for the annual musical spectacular seen by more than 100 million viewers around the country.
The L.A. Philharmonic announced Thursday that Dudamel will appear with student musicians from the Youth Orchestra L.A. during Super Bowl 50, set for Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium.
Deborah Borda, president of the L.A. Philharmonic, said students from YOLA have been rehearsing for weeks for the big show, which will air on CBS during the Carolina Panthers-Denver Broncos game.
Dudamel, who had been traveling, flew in recently to rehearse directly with them, she said.
“I’m delighted about the kind of recognition the students will be getting,” Borda said Thursday.
“I think it will benefit them incredibly — the question of music education in our social and musical structure ... it’s a touchdown.”
No details about the halftime program or Dudamel’s place in the show have been revealed. A spokeswoman for NFL declined to comment on reports that Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and other prominent pop stars also will appear at halftime.
The Dudamel-led group will feature students from the YOLA at Expo site in South L.A., which is a partnership of the L.A. Phil, the Harmony Project music program for low-income children and the Expo community center near the Memorial Coliseum.
The Harmony Project said Thursday that its students started rehearsing for the Super Bowl just after Christmas.
“Everyone’s very excited,” a representative said, adding that the appearance is by far the biggest exposure the group has received.
For people who aren’t football fans but who watch the game anyway, the halftime spectacle is more than half the fun. The 2016 performance featured Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce. Here’s a look at how some previous Super Bowl performances came off.(Clockwise from top left: Julio Cortez / Associated Press, Chris O’Meara / Associated Press; Mike Powell / Allsport; Christopher Polk / Getty Images; Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Beyonce, Coldplay singer Chris Martin, center, and Bruno Mars perform during halftime of Super Bowl 50.(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)
The Super Bowl is also a coup for Dudamel, the 35-year-old music and artistic director of the L.A. Phil, who has sought to make classical music more accessible to the public.
It’s an effort he has largely made through the L.A. Phil’s music education initiatives, especially YOLA, which provides instruction to disadvantaged students throughout the city.
But Dudamel has also appeared on TV programs as varied as “Sesame Street,” “The Tonight Show” and the comedy series “Mozart in the Jungle.” He recently conducted John Williams’ opening and closing music for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
In 2014, soprano Renée Fleming performed the national anthem ahead of the Super Bowl, but the NFL doesn’t often invite classical musicians to perform at its biggest night, which traditionally has been heavy on pop music.
A performance slot at halftime is a coveted honor for musicians of any stripe, if only for the TV exposure. Organizers said that more than 118.5 million people in the U.S. watched last year’s show, making it the most-watched halftime ever.
Dudamel wasn’t available for comment Thursday but said in a news release that “this is a wonderful honor and an extraordinary showcase for YOLA, as well as a tribute to youth orchestras worldwide. When we play, it will be for the youth of the world so they can be inspired to create both a better life for themselves and a better future.”
The Venezuela native didn’t grow up in America’s football culture and is a soccer fan.
“But,” Borda said, “he will learn.”