April 30, 2010 / 7:11 PM / 9 years ago

Look out U.S., here comes Gustavo Dudamel

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Look out America — or, make that the United States of America — Gustavo Dudamel is headed your way.

Venezuelan born Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, takes part in a press briefing in Los Angeles September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

On May 10, the curly-haired maestro of the Los Angeles Philharmonic will embark on his first ever U.S. tour as music director of the “L.A. Phil,” introducing the conductor who is known as a rock star of the classical music world and his new orchestra to audiences in eight major U.S. cities.

Several months after taking over at the helm of one of the world’s top orchestras, the 29 year-old Dudamel is settling into his role, moving beyond the hype that accompanied his appointment and focusing on his work.

Whenever he can, he spreads a message to fans that seems unusual in this city of Hollywood stars and media moguls.

It’s not about me, he says.

“The attention is amazing and I love that. It’s true when you have the attention of people, things go well.”

But, he is quick to add, “It’s not about Gustavo Dudamel. It’s not even about the L.A. Philharmonic. It’s about the community.”

For music lovers in the City of Angels, who have come to know the excitable Dudamel, his clarion call to civic responsibility sounds familiar, but to those outside it strikes a fresh note in what sometimes seems to be the insular world of orchestras and classical music.

Dudamel, who was born and raised in Venezuela, is the most famous product of “El Sistema,” a network of music schools that gives instruments and instruction to kids of humble origin.

The program is known the world over for creating incredible musicians and instilling a life-long appreciation for music. It’s a system Dudamel is working to replicate in Los Angeles.


Already, he has started a handful of local youth orchestras, which he occasionally conducts, and is adamant about wanting to make music accessible to everyone.

“If it’s an individual, in two days, (the music) is gone,” he said, throwing up his arms, as he tends to do to make a point. “It’s not personal. For me, the orchestra is the important thing — and the music.”

Along with his vibrant personality and desire to spread music to the community, Dudamel often corrects people who think America is just the United States. He likes to point out that there is North, Central and South America, too, with many countries in each region.

In fact, the L.A. Phil is currently playing a program Dudamel has titled “Americas and Americans,” which he describes as “meant to link us as a people, so that borders dissolve, and we find those common threads and musical moments which unite North and South American as one.”

The programs have featured the works of Argentina’s Osvaldo Golijov and Venezuela’s Antonio Estevez, as well as U.S. composers like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein and their familiar, foot-tapping pieces.

“The chance to have all this music together in one festival is a dream coming true for me,” said Dudamel.

The 8-city tour, which will feature works by U.S. composer John Adams, as well as Gustav Mahler and Tchaikovsky, begins May 10 in San Francisco and has stops in Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City, among others.

And while it may be his first tour with the baton of the L.A. Phil in his hand, if his popularity in South America and Los Angeles is any indication, it won’t be his last.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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