After Super Bowl performance, young musicians receive joyful homecoming

Families lined up outside of Disney Hall to welcome students back into town.
Families lined up outside of Disney Hall to welcome students back into town.
Priska Neely

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Families lined Grand Avenue outside of Walt Disney Hall Monday night holding handmade signs and balloons as they awaited the return of the young musicians who performed in the Super Bowl halftime show.  

"YOLA! YOLA! YOLA!" the group cheered as forty members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Youth Orchestra LA filed off the bus. 

The students spent nearly a week in Santa Clara rehearsing and brushing shoulders with the Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. 

"We got to run through the show so many times and got really used to it and got close to the artists," said Dalanie Harris, who plays the bass. "It was really rewarding."

They played their instruments in front of millions of viewers, providing the strings in Coldplay's song "Viva La Vida." 

Iza Salazar played her violin during the performance. She said she was nervous as she walked onto the field and heard the cheers of the crowd, but not when she started playing.

"It was too much of an excitement to be scared anymore, you know?" said Salazar. "So you just have to go out there and give it your all. And that’s what we all did."

LA Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel, the founder of YOLA, was outside Disney Hall with the students as they posed to take photos with their families. The YOLA program was modeled after El Sistema, the Venezuelan youth music program that gave Dudamel his start. 

It's an intensive after-school program, aimed at providing free instruments and instruction to kids who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Students practice for about 15 hours per week. YOLA started in 2007 and now serves more than 700 students at three sites -- at Expo Center in South LA, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts in East LA, and at the Heart of Los Angeles in the Rampart District.