One of the most exciting and promising announcements in classical music recently is the appointment of young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel as the new Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
The excitement is due to the unprecedented international acclaim Dudamel has gotten as a conductor, in spite of being only 26 years old. The promise comes from his inspiring personal story.
Dudamel is not a child of privilege or wealth, but he was fortunate to be raised in a country that has made a dedicated effort to use music, and youth orchestras in particular, to rescue “at risk” youth from lives of poverty, crime and despair. (See Dudamel’s biography.) And this is in spite of its status as one of the poorest countries in Latin America.
The significance of having a Hispanic conductor leading the professional orchestra of largely Latino L.A. is hard to overstate. His credentials and ability are impeccable, so there’s no question of this being a callous marketing move or mere pandering by the Philharmonic’s management.
But at a time when orchestras struggle to diversify their audiences, not only in ethnic terms but also by age and economic status, Dudamel can serve as a powerful force to proclaim that classical music is, indeed, for everyone who has the luck to be exposed to it and the willingness to be open to its value.
I wish him and the L. A. Philharmonic all the best.