Saturday, September 1, 2007

Gustavo Dudamel

If you have not heard this name recently, you soon will. Gustavo Dudamel, a 26 year old prodigy, was recently appointed Musical Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which some argue is the best orchestra in the country. Gustavo Dudamel grew up in poverty in the interior of Venezuela. It is a story full of faith and conviction that you must read.

This wild performance is conducted by Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, a whole story in itself. These young musicians, like Dudamel, come for the most part from desperate shantytowns of Venezuela, not the conservatoires of Vienna or Berlin. They are performing Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo" from West Side Story in London. Each musician has come to his or her music through a Venezuelan national program referred to colloquially as El Sistema. El Sistema now harbors over 270,000 young musicians and 220 youth orchestras performing from the Andes to the Caribbean. These children have been spared the horrors of the violent barrios through a process that Dudamel describes as "music as a social savior." It is an auspicious story and another one of the continuing signs of hope.

In speaking of Dudamel, acclaimed British Conductor, Sir Simon Rattle calls him "the most astonishingly gifted conductor I have ever come across." His young orchestra has even bettered seasoned European ensembles to record for the world's most prominent classical-music label, Deutsche Grammophon. Their North American tour will hit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and New York in November. Good luck on those tickets!

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