Donald F. Santa-Emma.
Donald F. Santa-Emma
Donald F. Santa-Emma
AOSFB Staff - 1974-2021 | Director of the All-Ohio State Fair Band - 1999-2015
Director Emeritus of the All-Ohio State Fair Band - 2016-2022
It is with much sadness that we share the news that Donald F. Santa-Emma, Director Emeritus of the All-Ohio State Fair Band, passed away at his home on January 5, 2022. Mr. Santa-Emma was entering his 48th year on the staff of the All-Ohio State Fair Band having served in his current role for 5 years and Director for 17 years.
Santa-Emma quietly took his final bow as director at the conclusion of the 2015 Ohio State Fair. During his tenure, he compassionately worked with thousands of Ohio's finest high school musicians, allowing them to showcase their talents at thousands of concerts. His leadership, wisdom and diplomacy have provided stability over the years, guiding the All-Ohio State Fair Band and leaving a lasting mark on the State Fair. Over the last several years has made an impression on the Band providing key insights and guidance, directing some tunes, attending Celeste Center and Park of Roses Concerts and even watching the entire Celebrate 2021 concert via facetime from his home.
Brian W. Dood, Director of the AOSFB shared, “We have lost a truly great man. Don was a great role model, mentor and friend to all of us. He loved all Ohio youth, the many High School music programs throughout Ohio and their students. And he loved all things that were The Ohio State Fair. His legacy will live on in the hearts of thousands of past and future members of AOSFB and he will be remembered through the music we play.”
The Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame member joined the staff in 1974 when he received a frantic phone call from the director of the All-Ohio State Fair Band at the time, Omar Blackman. Blackman urged the hesitant Santa-Emma to join the band staff as an assistant director as a vacancy needed to be filled immediately.
Through the years he was a steady force as a leader within the organization. Whether serving in his previous roles as Assistant Director, Administrative Assistant, or Director, his foremost focus was on the band members. He desired a high quality music experience for the members while working to create a welcoming and professional environment in which the members would grow as young citizens of Ohio. Mr. Santa-Emma knew that the AOSFB provided the right arena for high school students to grow and develop and he did all that he could to set the stage so that each member could maximize the opportunity and experience.
At the time of his retirement, Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler said, “Don has shown such an immense amount of passion toward the All-Ohio State Fair Band, empowering each and every one of its youth members with an outstanding musical education, a positive Fair experience and a devoted sense of community spirit. I am proud of the legacy of excellence that Don has left behind.”
Mr. Santa-Emma received his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and his Master's Degree from Austin Peay State University. He engaged in doctoral course work at the University of Kentucky. A longtime music educator, Mr. Santa-Emma served as Director of Fine Arts Education for the Cleveland Public Schools where he supervised over 200 teachers. In his retirement, he served as Interim Director of Fine Arts in Philadelphia Schools for one year and led the Lakewood Hometown Band for many years. He has received numerous citations and awards, including The Distinguished Service Award for Music Education from The Ohio State University, The Industry Service Award from the Ohio Music Education Association, and The Hall of Fame of his high school, West Technical High School. He was recipient of the Martha Holden Jennings Teacher/Leader Award and a Master Teacher Citation from The Cleveland Public Schools. He is President Emeritus of the 1,000 member Cleveland Federation of Musicians, Local 4, American Federations of Musicians and he served as music contractor for Cleveland's Playhouse Square, America's second largest performing arts center, until 2020.
It has been said that Mr. Santa-Emma "helped the band through changing times and guided the organization to new levels of achievement. He deserves the utmost respect for his leadership and contributions to the All-Ohio State Fair Band and music education." Without a doubt, Mr. Santa-Emma led the AOSFB in the spirit of previous directors - Jack Wainwright, Louis Pete, Jack Evans and Omar Blackman, as he carried forward many traditions in respect of the organization's deep history. At the same time, he encouraged and managed change which allowed the band to excel while meeting the needs of today's youth.
At this time a private funeral service is being planned by the family. Our hearts go out to his wife, Patricia and their entire family during this time and the days ahead. The entire AOSFB Family appreciates you for sharing Don with us over all the years!
Thank you, Mr. Santa-Emma, for bringing amazing music to the community – whether in a classroom, in a pit orchestra, with community ensembles or at The Ohio State Fair…. your impact on young aspiring musicians and professionals alike made our world a better place.
Cards may be sent to the following address and they will be delivered to the family:
The Santa-Emma Family
PO BOX 27
Bladensburg, Ohio 43005