Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt and Lilly Disney Chair
Gustavo Dudamel is driven by the belief that music has the power to transform lives, to inspire, and to change the world. Through his dynamic presence on the podium and his tireless advocacy for arts education, Dudamel has introduced classical music to new audiences around the world and has helped to provide access to the arts for countless people in under-resourced communities. As the Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, now in his 12th season, Dudamel’s bold programming and expansive vision led The New York Times to herald the LA Phil as “the most important orchestra in America—period.”
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dudamel has committed even more time and energy to his mission of bringing music to people across the globe, firm in his conviction that the arts play an essential role in creating a more just, peaceful, and integrated society. A landmark event was the highly anticipated launch of Symphony, a touring virtual reality project in collaboration with “la Caixa” Foundation that features Dudamel and 101 musicians from 22 countries in a state-of-the-art immersive VR film experience. The free touring exhibition, housed in two mobile pop-up cinemas, launched in Barcelona, and will travel to hundreds of towns across Spain and Portugal in order to allow tens of thousands of people to have access to the power of symphonic music. Symphony also opened a permanent exhibition in Barcelona in April 2021.
Dudamel also gave in-person performances with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and made his debut at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in performances of Verdi’s Il trovatore and Otello. In June and July 2021, Dudamel will lead the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Orquestra del Encuentro at the 37th International Music Festival of the Canary Islands, part of the Dudamel Foundation’s Encuentros España project.
In April 2021, it was announced that Dudamel would join the Paris Opera as its next Music Director, for six seasons beginning in August 2021. Dudamel has led more than 30 staged, semi-staged, and concertante productions across the world's major stages, including five staged productions with Teatro alla Scala, productions at the Berlin and Vienna State Operas, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and 13 operas in Los Angeles, with repertoire ranging from Così fan tutte to Carmen, from Otello to Tannhäuser, from West Side Story to contemporary operas by composers like John Adams and Oliver Knussen. As part of his inaugural season as Music Director of the Paris Opera, in fall 2021, Dudamel will conduct performances of Puccini’s Turandot and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
Following his U.S. debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 2005, Dudamel became the orchestra’s music director starting in the 2009/10 season, and under his direction the LA Phil has secured its place as one of the leading orchestras in the world. Inspired by El Sistema, Dudamel, the LA Phil and its community partners founded YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) in 2007, providing 1,300 young people with free instruments, intensive music instruction, academic support, and leadership training. In the 2021/22 season, YOLA is planning to open its own permanent, purpose-built facility: The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Dudamel’s advocacy for the power of music to unite, heal, and inspire is global in scope. Inspired by his transformative experience as a youth in Venezuela’s immersive musical training program El Sistema, he created The Dudamel Foundation in 2012 with the goal “to expand access to music and the arts by providing tools and opportunities for young people to shape their creative futures.” In 2017, he led the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic at the Nobel Prize Concert in Sweden, where he also delivered a lecture on the unity of the arts and sciences. His 2018 “Americas” tour with the Vienna Philharmonic—beginning at Carnegie Hall and ending at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires—celebrated the symbolic union of North, Central, and South America, a bridge he further strengthened with an LA Phil residency in Mexico City in 2019, where his Foundation helped to bring 96 YOLA musicians for a cultural exchange culminating in a free, open rehearsal for all the students with Dudamel.
One of the few classical musicians to become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, Dudamel will conduct the score to Bernstein’s iconic score for Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of West Side Story and will star as the subject of a documentary on his life, to be released by Participant Media. He voiced the character of Trollzart in the DreamWorks animated feature Trolls World Tour and appeared in Amazon Studio’s award-winning comedy series Mozart in the Jungle, as well as in Sesame Street, The Simpsons, and Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, for which he also recorded the score. At John Williams’ personal request, he guest-conducted the opening and closing credits of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and performed with the LA Phil at the 2019 Academy Awards. It was a first for a classical musician when Dudamel, together with members of YOLA, participated in the 2016 Super Bowl half-time show alongside pop stars Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars. In 2019, Dudamel was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining Hollywood greats as well as such musical luminaries as Bernstein, Ellington, and Toscanini.
His extensive, multiple-Grammy Award-winning discography includes 57 releases, including recent Deutsche Grammophon LA Phil recordings of the complete Charles Ives symphonies and Andrew Norman’s Sustain (both of which won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance). Last season also saw the Sony Classical audio/video release of the Sommernachtskonzert 2019 with the Vienna Philharmonic, following their 2017 New Year’s concert, where he was the youngest conductor in history to lead the famous annual performance. He has made several acclaimed recordings with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, including the soundtrack to the feature film Libertador—about the life of Simón Bolívar, for which Dudamel composed the score—and digital releases of all nine Beethoven symphonies.
Gustavo Dudamel was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. His father was a trombonist and his mother a voice teacher, and he grew up listening to music and conducting his toys to old recordings. He began violin lessons as a child but from an early age was drawn to conducting, and at the age of 13, as a member of his youth orchestra, he put down his violin and picked up the baton when the conductor was running late. A natural, he began studying conducting with Rodolfo Saglimbeni. In 1996, he was named Music Director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, where his talent was spotted by José Antonio Abreu, who would become his mentor. In 1999, at the age of 18, he was appointed Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, composed of graduates of the El Sistema program. Dudamel gained international attention when he won the inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Competition in 2004. Dudamel went on to become the music director of the Gothenburg Symphony (2007–2012), where he now holds the title of Honorary Conductor. Dudamel’s talent was widely recognized, notably by other prominent conductors of the day, but it was the Los Angeles Philharmonic who took the initiative to sign the 27-year-old Dudamel as music director in 2009.
Since then, Dudamel has become one of the most decorated conductors of his generation. Among his many honors, he has received Spain’s 2020 Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, the 2019 Konex Foundation Classical Music Award, Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), the Gish Prize, the Paez Medal of Art, 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. Leading publications such as Musical America and Gramophone have named him as their artist of the year. He has received honorary doctorates from the Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado in his hometown and also from the University of Gothenburg. He was inducted into l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres as a Chevalier in Paris in 2009. The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela was awarded Spain’s prestigious annual Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 2008. He was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009. In 2016, Dudamel delivered the keynote speech for recipients of the National Medal of Art and National Humanities Medal.