Gustavo Dudamel - Biography

Driven by an unwavering belief in the power of music to heal, unite, and inspire, Gustavo Dudamel is one of the most distinguished conductors of our day. From the great concert halls to classrooms, video screens and movie theaters, Dudamel’s remarkable career of musical achievements and championing of access to the arts for young people around the world demonstrates music’s extraordinary capacity to transform lives.

Dudamel’s 2018/19 season centered around the centennial celebration of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and his tenth year as their Music & Artistic Director. Other highlights of the season include his debut at the Metropolitan Opera conducting Verdi’s Otello; an Academy Awards Oscars performance; LA Phil Centennial tour to Seoul and Tokyo featuring the music of John Adams, John Williams, and Gustav Mahler; Mahler Chamber Orchestra projects in Spain; and his first extended academic residency at Princeton University.

Under Dudamel’s direction, the LA Phil has become one of the leading orchestras in the world, admired for its unmatched commitment to new music, diversity, and inclusion. The celebration of the LA Phil’s 100th season showcases the extraordinary versatility and vision of both the orchestra and Dudamel’s cross genre appeal, mainstream impact, and ability to transcend the traditional classical music. Dudamel’s commitment to the music of our time, as well as a musical vision reflecting the immense diversity of his audience, will manifest in collaborations with artists from all genres of music. Chris Martin, Katy Perry, and Natalia Lafourcade will be featured alongside classical music luminaries John Williams and Lang Lang, among others. The LA Phil will also distribute 10,000 free tickets to underserved audiences around Los Angeles as a centennial gift to the community.

Bridging Cultures: Advocacy Through Music & Education

A champion of the belief in music's power to unite and inspire, Dudamel is particularly committed to the idea of the ‘United Americas,’ as told to The New York Times: “The Americas are a united essence. The culture of the Americas – north, south, central – is inspired by the landscape, the people, the folklore of these amazing countries. There is great variety, but also so much in common. We are all part of the ‘New World,’ with all the sense of youth, hope, diversity, and courage that term has represented for generations.”

His 2018 “Americas” tour with the Vienna Philharmonic was highlighted by an Art and Citizenship workshop in Mexico City, bringing together 300 young people from across North and South America in an expression of cultural solidarity. He has worked to raise awareness for the importance of music education by appearing at the United Nations and the White House, and he delivered an address on the unity of the arts and sciences during his appearance at the 2017 Nobel Prize Concert.

A lifelong advocate for music education and social development through art, Dudamel was shaped by his childhood experience with El Sistema, the extraordinary program of immersive musical training initiated in 1975 by Maestro José Antonio Abreu. Entering his 19th year as Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, Dudamel also carries on the work of his late mentor with his ongoing commitment to El Sistema in Venezuela, and by supporting numerous Sistema-inspired projects around the world, including Big Noise in Scotland, Vienna’s Superar program, SerHacer in Boston, and El Sistema Sweden.

Dudamel also continues to expand the reach of his Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) initiative. YOLA was founded in 2007 on the El Sistema model inspired by Gustavo’s work. The program has provided access to quality music education to over 1200 children from underserved communities around Los Angeles. 2019 will see the construction of a new Frank Gehry-designed facility for YOLA in Inglewood, California.

Reaching New Audiences Through Media & Entertainment

One of the few classical musicians to truly reach mainstream audiences while maintaining the highest musical integrity, Gustavo Dudamel has been featured three times on CBS’ 60 Minutes and was the subject of a PBS special, Dudamel: Conducting a Life. He has been interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN, Conan O’Brian on Conan, Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, and Elmo on Sesame Street. In 2018, Dudamel was featured in The New York Times Sunday magazine: “What Makes Superstar Gustavo Dudamel So Good.” He had a cameo role in Amazon Studio’s award-winning series Mozart in the Jungle and, together with members of YOLA, became the first classical musician to participate in the Super Bowl Halftime Show, appearing alongside pop stars Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars. In 2017, he was the youngest-ever conductor to lead the Vienna Philharmonic’s legendary New Year’s Day Concert, watched annually by over 60 million people in 90 countries. At John Williams’ personal request, Dudamel guest-conducted on the soundtrack for Star Wars: The Force Awakens; he also recorded James Newton Howard’s soundtrack to Disney’s holiday release of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, in which he makes an on-screen cameo appearance.

Dudamel’s cinema, TV, radio, and online broadcasts have reached hundreds of millions of people around the world. Dudamel’s Grammy Award®-winning discography also includes landmark recordings of John Adams,’ Gospel According to the Other Mary (commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic); the soundtrack to the motion picture Libertador, for which Dudamel composed the score; a Richard Strauss disc with the Berlin Philharmonic; Mahler Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra; and Mahler Symphony No. 9 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A special charity LP release of Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic raised funds for music education projects in Latin America, and children from Vienna’s El Sistema-inspired Superar program participated in his Deutsche Grammophon release, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Dudamel has independently produced an all-Wagner recording available exclusively for download and streaming, a set of the complete Beethoven symphonies from Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, and a broadcast of two Stravinsky ballets in cooperation with the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall.

Cultural Accolades & Merits 

Gustavo Dudamel is one of the most decorated conductors of his generation. In 2019, Gustavo was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame as one of world’s premier conductors of today’s world of classical music; and the 2019 Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA). He received the Gish Prize, the PAEZ Medal of Art, and the Pablo Neruda Order of Artistic and Cultural Merit in 2018, the Americas Society Cultural Achievement Award in 2016, and the 2014 Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society from the Longy School of Music. He was named Musical America’s 2013 Musician of the Year, one of the highest honors in the classical music industry, and was voted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame. In October of 2011, he was named Gramophone Artist of the Year, and in May of the same year, was inducted into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in consideration of his “eminent merits in the musical art.” The previous year, he received the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. Dudamel was inducted into l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres as a Chevalier in Paris in 2009 and received an honorary doctorate from the Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado in his hometown of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Gothenburg in 2012. In 2008, the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra was awarded Spain’s prestigious annual ‘Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts’ and, along with his mentor José Antonio Abreu, Dudamel was given the “Q Prize” from Harvard University for extraordinary service to children. He was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009.

Beginnings and Education

Gustavo Dudamel was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He began violin lessons as a child with José Luis Jiménez and Francisco Díaz at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory. He continued his violin studies with Rubén Cova and José Francisco del Castillo at the Latin American Academy of Violin. His conducting studies began in 1993, when he was hired as an Assistant Conductor with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. In 1996, he studied with Rodolfo Saglimbeni and was named Music Director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, he was appointed Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra and began conducting studies with the orchestra’s founder, Dr. Abreu. Dudamel achieved international attention by winning the inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Competition in 2004. He then went on to become Music Director of the Gothenburg Symphony (2007-2012), where he currently holds the title Honorary Conductor. Inspired by Dudamel’s early musical and mentoring experiences, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation, a registered charity, was created in 2012 with the goal of promoting access to music as a human right and a catalyst for learning, integration, and social change.