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 globe and has helped provide access to the arts for countless people in underserved communities. He currently serves as the Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Music Director of the Opéra National de Paris and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.
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.” In the 2022/23 season, Dudamel and the LA Phil celebrate the 90th birthday of legendary film composer John Williams with a Gala event, while their visionary, multiyear Pan-American Music Initiative continues to celebrate the explosive creativity of the Americas. Other highlights with the LA Phil included a fall tour with performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Boston, Mexico City, and Guanajuato, a 10-day exploration of the piano/orchestral works of Rachmaninoff with Yuja Wang, and a concert presentation of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
Following a landmark 100th anniversary season at the Hollywood Bowl, Dudamel and the LA Phil return to the historic venue for another ambitious set of programs that includes celebrations of Williams and Duke Ellington, the return of the acclaimed Pan-American Music Initiative, and another highly anticipated performance with Mexican supergroup Café Tacvba.
On the heels of his inaugural season there as Music Director, the Paris Opera 2022/23 season features Dudamel leading productions of Puccini’s Tosca; Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; a new production of John Adams’ Nixon in China, directed by Valentina Carrasco; and Thomas Adès’ Dante project, choreographed by Wayne McGregor. Dudamel has led over 30 staged, semi-staged, and concert productions on the world’s major stages, including five productions with La 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, and from West Side Story to contemporary operas by composers such as Adams and Oliver Knussen.
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, Dudamel, the LA Phil, and its community partners in 2007 founded Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, which now provides 1,500 young people with free instruments, intensive music instruction, academic support, and leadership training. In 2021, YOLA opened its first permanent, purpose-built facility: the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, designed by architect Frank Gehry. In 2012, Dudamel launched The Dudamel Foundation, which he co-chairs with his wife, actress and director María Valverde, with the goal of expanding “access to music and the arts for young people by providing tools and opportunities to shape their creative futures.” In 2017, he formed the “Orchestra of the Future,” made up of young people representing five continents and more than a dozen countries, around the Nobel Peace 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 marked his first Encuentros program in Mexico City, which celebrated the symbolic union of a “United Americas,” a bridge Dudamel further strengthened with an LA Phil residency there in 2019. In 2021, The Dudamel Foundation presented its first European Encuentros in Spain as a way to explore cultural unity and celebrate harmony, equality, dignity, beauty, and respect through music. In 2022, Dudamel conducted the LA Phil and a star-studded cast in a new production of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, produced in collaboration with Los Angeles’ Tony® Award-winning Deaf West Theatre, Deaf performers of El Sistema Venezuela’s White Hands Choir, and The Dudamel Foundation. The foundation also brought its Encuentros initiative to the Hollywood Bowl as part of the venue’s 100th anniversary season, in a two-week intensive global leadership and orchestral training program for young musicians from around the world, culminating in a concert at the Bowl and a tour with the Orquesta del Encuentros to the legendary Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California.
One of the few classical musicians to become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, Dudamel conducted the score to Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and starred as the subject of a documentary on his life, ¡Viva Maestro!, released by Participant Media. He voiced the character of Trollzart in the DreamWorks animated feature Trolls World Tour and appeared in Amazon Studios’ 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 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®. Dudamel has also performed with music icons such as Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Gwen Stefani, Nas, and Tyler, the Creator, and he led the LA Phil alongside international superstar Billie Eilish and FINNEAS as part of the concert film experience Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles, released on Disney+. It was a first for a classical musician when Dudamel, together with members of YOLA, participated in the 2016 Super Bowl halftime 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 66 releases, including recent Deutsche Grammophon LA Phil recordings of Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 7-9, which were nominated for the Grammy® in the Best Orchestral Performance category; Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, which won the Grammy® for Best Choral Performance; and the complete Charles Ives symphonies and Andrew Norman’s Sustain, both of which won the Grammy® for Best Orchestral Performance.
Sony Classical released audio and video recordings of Dudamel’s Sommernachtskonzert 2019 with the Vienna Philharmonic, following their 2017 New Year’s concert recording, 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, including the soundtrack to the feature film Libertador about the life of Bolívar—for which Dudamel composed the score, and digital releases of all nine Beethoven symphonies, which were also released in video form on his YouTube channel free to the public for the first time.
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 was drawn to conducting from an early age. 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 Bamberg Symphony Gustav Mahler Competition in 2004. He went on to become 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 that took the initiative to sign the 27-year-old as Music Director in 2009.
Since then, Dudamel has become one of the most decorated conductors of his generation. Among his many honors, he received the 2022 Glenn Gould Prize; the Medal of the University of Burgos, Spain, in 2021; Spain’s 2020 Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts; the 2019 Konex Foundation Classical Music Award; the Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA); the Dorothy & Lillian 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 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 and the Colburn School. He was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters as an Officer in Paris in 2022. The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra was awarded Spain’s prestigious annual Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 2008. Dudamel 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 Arts and National Humanities Medal.