Longtime All-Ohio State Fair Band Director Donald F. Santa-Emma of Cuyahoga County (Rocky River) has announced his retirement after serving on the band’s staff for 42 years and spending the last 17 years as director.

Unbeknownst 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 Ohio 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.”

Santa-Emma became involved with the All-Ohio State Fair Band in the summer of 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 vacancy needed to be filled immediately.

Through the years, Santa-Emma has been a steady force as a leader within the All-Ohio State Fair Band. Whether serving in his previous roles as assistant director and administrative assistant, or during his tenure as director, his foremost focus was on the band members. He successfully sought to provide a high quality music experience for the members, all while working to create a welcoming and professional environment in which the members would grow as young citizens of Ohio.

Santa-Emma received his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and his master’s from Austin Peay State University, and pursued doctoral coursework at the University of Kentucky. He served as Director of Fine Arts Education for the Cleveland Public Schools. 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, Martha Holden Jennings Teacher/Leader Award and a Master Teacher Citation from The Cleveland Public Schools. Santa-Emma is a proud inductee of both the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame and the West Technical High School Hall of Fame. He is President Emeritus of the 1,000-member Cleveland Federation of Musicians (Local 4 of the American Federations of Musicians), and he continues to serve as music contractor for Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, America’s second-largest performing arts center.

As he enters his retirement, Donald Santa-Emma now joins the ranks of outstanding former All-Ohio State Fair Band directors including Jack Wainwright, Louis Pete, Jack Evans and Omar Blackman.

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.

Fair officials hope to announce a new All-Ohio State Fair Band Director by December 1, 2015.

The All-Ohio State Fair Band has been a featured attraction of the Ohio State Fair since 1925. The band selects approximately 200 superior high school musicians for membership annually based on a number of factors including student ability and recommendation from their local band directors. Participating students gain a unique musical and educational experience, as well as an opportunity to build many lasting friendships during a two-week stay at the Ohio State Fair. The All-Ohio State Fair Band arrives at the Ohio Expo Center just days before the Fair opens, learning all of their music in a limited time. They remain housed on-site and perform nearly 100 times during the 12-day Fair.

For more information, call 1-888-OHO-EXPO or 1-614-644-FAIR. On the Web, visit us at ohiostatefair.com.

The Ohio Expo Center is proud to host the Ohio State Fair.  With a spectacular midway, big-name entertainment, hundreds of exhibits and one of the largest junior fair shows in the nation, the 2016 Ohio State Fair will run July 27 – Aug. 7.

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