Cal Band in Super Bowl 50

It’s the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, starring the University of California (at Berkeley) Marching Band … with backup from Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars.

“We’re still in awe,” says Alyssa Ransom, an alto saxophone player in the Cal Band. “We’re all having a hard time adjusting back to school after having the experience of a lifetime.”

The band recorded their parts of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and “Adventure of a Lifetime” ahead of time due to sound concerns. For the vocal part of the latter, Coldplay’s drummer Will Champion personally taught the band and attended the recording session. “When Will Champion performed with us, that was an incredible experience,” Ransom says. “He was so humble to interact with us so closely.”

Wearing modern bright pink and orange uniforms was a huge departure from Cal’s usual militaristic navy blues as performers marched in the all-student-coordinated drill.

“The production crew … described to our student leaders what they wanted the show to look like,” Ransom says. “We had to work around their team to include exactly the details that they wanted.”

Among the most challenging parts of the show were the secrecy and security. When the band was first approached in December, everyone involved had to sign non-disclosure agreements. While rehearsing, phones and cameras were forbidden, and the student performers needed to contain their excitement.

“Walking out onto the field, all of us knew that [Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars] were going to be there, so we prepped ourselves and told everyone, ‘Please don’t scream or get too excited,’” Ransom says. “It was really amazing to say the least that we were in the same stadium and performing on the same field with these world-renowned artists.”

Currently, the Cal Band is fundraising and preparing for its tour of Asia in May, only their second-ever international trip and the first in more than 50 years.

Students from the Milpitas (California) High School Band, Orchestra, Choir, Dance, and Theatre ensembles also participated in the Super Bowl halftime show as part of the “fan” group around the stage. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led his Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), in accompanying Coldplay. Additionally, Beyoncé was backed by a group of professional female performers, some holding drums and trumpets provided by Yamaha.

Photo courtesy of the Cal Band.

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.

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