Donald F. Santa-Emma, Director of the All-Ohio State Fair Band, has announced his retirement after serving on the staff for 42 years with the last 17 years as director.
Unbeknown to fairgoers and supporters, 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.
"It is with great sadness that I accept Mr. Santa-Emma’s announcement,” explained General Manager Virgil Strickler. “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. While I am saddened to see him go, I am proud of the legacy of excellence that Don has left behind.”
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 has been 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.
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. Mr. Santa-Emma served as Director of Fine Arts Education for the Cleveland Public Schools where he supervised over 200 teachers. 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 continues to serve as music contractor for Cleveland's Playhouse Square, America's second largest performing arts center.
It has been said that Mr. Santa-Emma "helped the band through changing times and guided theorganization 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.
Along with Santa-Emma’s retirement comes the departure of his “right hand,” Patricia Santa-Emma, who has been beloved by band staff and members for her unmatched support of the organization - from stuffing envelopes to answering countless calls from members and parents. She has greatly impacted the organization you hear at the Ohio State Fair.
Plans are being made to honor Mr. Santa-Emma at the Ohio State Fair in 2016. Watch aosfb.com for more details and info.
Thank you Mr. Santa-Emma for touching the lives of many through your distinguished and dedicated time with the All-Ohio State Fair Band . . .take a well-deserved bow with an extra round of applause from the entire AOSFB Family!
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