Much has been said about Gustavo Dudamel, the 31-year-old Venezuelan who ranks among the world’s top orchestral conductors. Undoubtedly, more will be spoken about him as he continues his meteoric rise.
Dudamel completed a four-day residency with Cal Performances on the UC Berkeley campus conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in two concert performances this past Thursday and Friday evenings.
He began his residency by leading a Masters Class with UC Berkeley’s Symphony Orchestra. The maestro also gave an hour-long daytime performance for K-12 students at Zellerbach Hall.
Members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra also held music workshops for students at schools and music programs in the Bay Area.
Dudamel is the most famous exemplar of “El Sistema” (The System), Venezuela’s unique “music for the people” education program that spawned him and about 250,000 other musicians.
The program, officially known as the National System of Children and Youth, was founded in 1975 by composer/economist José Antonio Abreu.
Dudamel’s presence on the podium is riveting – dynamic, poetic in his movements, the energy and presence of a rock star, and balletic poise. He puts his heart, mind and soul into communicating with his musicians.
There is more to the man than just his music however. He has an inner self that give rise to his genius. His inner self is defined by his humanity, his love and caring for his fellow man. He understands the dignity and value of every person’s capacity for self- realization.
This is what really defines Dudamel’s greatness – his love and appreciation of the spirit that dwells within each of us. He sees this, and he touches each of us with his music.
Marta Lledo, a classical pianist from Argentina, says about Dudamel, “Mr. Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra made magic on stage. The maestro brought a tremendous energy, transporting the orchestra and audience to a different level.
“His interpretation of Benzecry or Villa-Lobos was impeccable. His Estevez (Cantanta Criolla with the tenor Idwer Alvarez and baritone Gaspar Moleiro) had the correct feel of Latin American culture music, and the Simon Bolivar Symphony gave us an exact interpretation as the piece demands.”
Dudamel’s lifelong passion is his commitment to music as an engine for social change.