Dudamel Wows the Crowd at His Philharmonic Debut

Gustavo Dudamel's first concert with the L.A. Philharmonic was Saturday night.

Oct. 9, 2009 — -- Gustavo Dudamel's first concert with the L.A. Philharmonic was last Saturday night -- a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

It was a triumph for him and for the orchestra.

But how did Dudamel begin the evening's program? Conducting an orchestra composed of children -- while wearing a t-shirt.

"Music is a fundamental human right," Dudamel said, and everyone deserves access.

At 28 years old, Dudamel is being called the most exciting talent since Leonard Bernstein.

At Saturday's concert, 18,000 came out to watch. It was a perfect opportunity to show off his adult orchestra -- and his orchestra of kids.

"Of course, we need education," Dudamel said. "Of course, we need food. Of course, we need health care. But arts culture is the soul of the community of the world."

For the past year, as he prepared to take the baton at the Philharmonic, Dudamel has been working with the youth orchestra. Most of the kids are from south L.A. and had never held an instrument before.

"I think music could give a lot to the world and to humanity because of the magic it hides within, and because of its function to unite the people," Dudamel said.

"When you play music for an audience, you see an audience and a community without division or differences," he added.

It's the same way, Dudamel learned about music in Venezuela. He was a student in the Venezuelan program, El Systema, that serves a quarter million disadvantaged kids by teaching them musical instruments.

"The music in my country is not only an artistic element, it is also social because we are trying to save lives of thousands of kids," he said.

Dudamel has played the violin since he little, but he wanted a more powerful instrument.

"It was magic to watch the conductor ... because this is not sound in the baton," he said. "Which is the instrument of the conductor? Of course, the instrument is the orchestra."

At just 18, Dudamel was conducting the National Youth Orchestra.

"I think for them is a new life, totally a new life," he said. "You can see the change, not only in the level how they play, if not the eyes. Now they can see the future in their life.

"I believe as a musician and with music from these great composers and these amazing orchestras that I get to conduct," he added, "we can offer a heart to unite the world and humanity."