If you watched the Super Bowl 50 halftime show on Sunday, Feb. 7, you probably noticed the crowd of colorfully-clad young musicians accompanying superstars Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé.
How did these kids land a role in one of the most-watched performances of the year? The answer in short: an afterschool program.
These talented young performers hailed from Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) @ EXPO, an afterschool program created through a partnership between the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Harmony Project, an afterschool initiative seeking to engage LA youth through music; and the EXPO Center, a community facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.
YOLA provides free instruments, intensive music training and academic support to students from Los Angeles’ underserved neighborhoods. YOLA currently serves over 700 Los Angeles area students, ages 6-18, across its three program sites.
“This is a wonderful honor and an extraordinary showcase for YOLA, as well as a tribute to youth orchestras worldwide,” said Music and Artistic Director of the LA Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, who also leads YOLA.
“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.”
YOLA member Karla Melgar told the Los Angeles Times how performers Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin treated the fledgling musicians like professionals, not inferiors.
“We all worked really hard,” she said. “And like Chris said, we were part of their band. We were part of the royal family.”
Fellow YOLA performer and 16 year old cellist Teresa Caceres also told the Los Angeles Times how YOLA has encouraged her to pursue her academic dreams.
“I want to study forensic anthropology when I go to college,” she said. “But I’ll minor in music. I’ll never leave music.”
YOLA’s performance alongside superstar musicians—and before an audience of 111.9 million viewers—served as a powerful demonstration of the way afterschool programs can lift children from challenging circumstances and propel them toward successful lives.
This Valentine’s Day season, join us in celebrating the many reasons to love afterschool programs.
Visit our campaign toolkit to find downloadable graphics and ideas for fun activities. For a chance to be featured by the Afterschool Alliance, post pictures from your program on social media with the hashtag #WeLoveAfterschool!