USD music professor makes a splash with Welch's commercial

VERMILLION, S.D. -- When it comes to singing the praises of Welch’s Purple Grape Juice, look no further than Stephen Yarbrough, D.M.A., an associate professor of music at The University of South Dakota. That’s because Welch’s is using one of Yarbrough’s compositions for its TV commercial that features chef Alton Brown. His orchestral composition, “Angel's Dances,” can be heard starring with the Concord grape and Brown, whose “Good Eats” program can be seen regularly on the Food Network.

Yarbrough was working in his office this summer when he got the "bolt out of the blue" phone call. On the other end of the line was a representative from the Via Group – a national advertising, marketing and communications agency – who wanted to know if the USD professor, who's also a composer in residence, would be willing to let the group use "Angel's Dances" for the ad, which began airing last week.

"I never thought something like that would ever happen," said Yarbrough, who has taught music at USD for 27 years. "They said ‘Angel’s Dances’ was perfect for their commercial."

It's been a busy semester for Yarbrough, who traveled to Washington, D.C. in September for the debut of "Dakota Diary," one of four National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) American Residency Commissions played by the National Symphony Chamber Ensemble at the Kennedy Center. “Dakota Diary” was the result of the NSO's 2002 residency in South Dakota after composers were invited to submit original compositions in a statewide competition. Yarbrough also composed "Hymn of the Nativity" for Christmas at the Cathedral in Sioux Falls in December, and "Kenyon Songs – Seven Poems of Jane Kenyon," which also premiered in September with nationally known mezzo-soprano Emily Lodine and the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra conducted by Delta David Gier.

"I try to write a lot during the year, as much as possible," stated Yarbrough, who composes all of his arrangements via a computer. "It's about finding your own voice. I try to write music that is accessible, music with lovely melodies, rich harmonies, compelling rhythms and colorful orchestration."

"The Powerful Polyphenol" commercial along with other videos featuring Brown and "Angel's Dances" can be viewed at www.welchs.com.

A photo of Yarbrough is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Stephen_Yarbrough.jpg.