YSU musicians provide orchestration for Super Bowl pregame festivities

Stephen Gage, YSU director of bands, seated right in blue shirt, and other YSU Dana School of Music students, alumni and faculty who played in the Super Bowl orchestration.


Chloe and Halle sing "America the Beautiful" during pregame of the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

They say there’s a Youngstown connection just about everywhere, and this year’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta was no exception.

More than two dozen alumni, faculty, staff and student musicians from Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music provided the musical orchestration for the singing of America the Beautiful by Chloe and Halle during Super Bowl pregame ceremonies in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, Feb. 3.

“We’re so excited to know that music performed by our students and faculty will be heard by millions across the globe," said Randall Goldberg, Dana director.

Added Phyllis Paul, dean of the YSU Cliffe College of Creative Arts and Communication: “It is truly an honor to have Dana featured in such a prominent way on the world stage. It is yet another example of the international quality of our students, alums and faculty.”

Derek Dixie

The Dana School of Music was approached about recording the music by Derek Dixie, a Youngstown native and former Dana School of Music student. Dixie, along with co-arranger/orchestrator and pianist Victoria Theodore, arranged and orchestrating America the Beautiful for the pregame ceremonies.

For the orchestration, Dixie hired a small Los Angeles horn and string ensemble and also reached out to Stephen Gage, YSU director of bands, who put together a group of 28 Dana musicians. A full recording session was conducted on Jan. 11 in Stambaugh Auditorium.

“The budgets for things like this are not endless,” Dixie said. “Employing 40-plus musicians can get expensive very fast. I didn't want to cut corners for this arrangement and just use computer programming. It was important to me that it was done right.

To lessen the financial blow, I pulled in favors from a few LA players that I know, and to get the full orchestration, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to shine light on my hometown and use talent from the university. I knew Dr. Gage would get me the people needed. He's always been about excellence. Youngstown as a whole is focused on excellence. Some of the hardest-working, well-rounded and capable people come from the city. I'm glad the world will again be able to experience the product of Youngstown on a national platform via the Super Bowl."

 “The end result, he said, “is a beautiful, emotionally-charged arrangement that I hope my hometown can be proud of.”

YSU’s Dana School of Music, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the United States. The school’s faculty and students annually perform more than 100 concerts, recitals and other events across the region, nation and world, including some of the country’s most elite venues like Carnegie Hall in New York. The school’s alums include Grammy Award musicians and Hall of Fame song writers, musicians performing in orchestras, opera companies and other ensembles, and teachers in conservatories, universities and primary and secondary schools throughout the nation.

Dana School of Music student, alumni and faculty:

Joseph Kromholz, Professor of Violin, YSU; Poland, OH
Therese DeGenova, Graduate Student in Violin; Boardman OH 

Caitlin Hedge, Adjunct Professor of Viola; Wooster, OH (MM, YSU)
Rachel Frank Aiken; Freelance Violist and Contractor; Boardman OH

Kivie Cahn Lipman, Professor of Cello, YSU; Youngstown
Stephanie Zitkovich, Graduate Student of Cello; Boardman

Ian Kinnaman, YSU Dana Student; Damascus, MD

Amanda Kengor, HS Student and Member of YSYO/PYSO; Grove City, PA

Kathryn Umble, Professor of Flute, YSU; Poland, OH
Anna Reitsma, Former Graduate Flute Student; Pittsburgh, PA
Stephanie Carter Dennis, Former YSU Dana Student, Cortland, OH

Dominic Delaurentis, Former YSU Dana Student, Current Graduate Student in Oboe, Duquesne University; Boardman, OH

Marissa Lyerly, Graduate Student in Clarinet, YSU; Butler, PA
Becky Yoho, Former YSU Dana Student; Music educator,New Castle, PA

Elliot Kwolek, Graduate Student in Woodwinds, YSU; Beaver, PA

Sean Yancer, Professor of Horn, YSU; Wadsworth, OH
Brendan Gage, Student in YSU Dana; Poland, OH
Sarah Schwenke, Student YSU Dana; New Wilmington, PA

Joe Badaczewski, Former YSU Dana Student, Current Professor of Trumpet, Duquesne University; Pittsburgh, PA
Marc Pupino, Former YSU Dana Student; Principal in the Austintown School; Canfield,OH
Herbie Hunkele, YSU Dana Student; New Castle, PA
Brandon Ritchie, Former YSU Dana Graduate Student in Trumpet; Ames, Iowa

Tenor trombone
Dan Sager, Graduate Trombone Student in YSU Dana; LaPorte, IN
Dominic Gentile, Student in YSU Dana; Pittsburgh, PA
Brandt Payne, Director of Athletic Bands & Professor, YSU Dana; Poland, OH

Bass trombone
Dan Patrick, Student in YSU DanaSTEM; Poland, OH

John Caughman, Professor of Tuba/Euphonium, YSU Dana; Pittsburgh, PA 

Stephen L. Gage, Director of Bands & Orchestra, YSU Dana, Poland, OH

Recording engineers
Jack Ciarniello, Canfield, OH
Frank Toncar, Cortland, OH

Members of the Los Angeles ensemble:

Co-Orchestrator and Pianist
Victoria Theodore  

Christopher Gray
Crystal Torres
Brandyn Phillips
Emile Martinez

French Horn
Killian Mulrooney

Christopher Johnson

Corbin Jones

Crystal Alforque
Stephanie Yu

Marta Honer
Stephanie Matthews

Simone Vitucci
Michelle Rearick

Jonathan Richards

Recording Engineer
Daniel Pampuri

Mix Engineer
Derek Dixie
Lester Mendoza