Here is the first of our videos from yesterday’s American Orchestra Forum event in San Francisco.
In this keynote conversation, Gustavo Dudamel and Deborah Borda discuss community, education and “symphonic metal” (a reference to that night’s LA Phil concert). It’s an inspiring talk. Under their leadership, the LA Phil is really challenging all of us to think bigger about the role of music in our society.
That Gustavo Dudamel is a product of powerful music education offers the best endorsement possible of music’s potential to transform lives — as he says “Music is a human right.” What’s so powerful in this is that it gives the individual both a sense of emotional awareness and potential for expression, as well as a means of communication and community.
Dudamel’s thoughts on music in education and community speak for themselves – and powerfully. What I think we as musicians can take further from this keynote, though, is his attitude. Somewhere in every jaded orchestral musician and conservatory student is a genuine love of and passion for music. It’s the reason we all decided to do this in the first place, but for most of us it is buried in a quest for perfect technique, intonation, and phrasing. Dudamel’s success with musicians comes from his ability to awaken their enthusiasm for the art, and not only the craft. His exuberance also infects his audience, giving them permission to relax and enjoy the music.
As musicians, we are trained to constantly listen to and critique every single sound that comes out of our instruments. Without this ability we could never grow. But what we are not taught is that there are times to stop the constant evaluation and appreciate the beautiful thing that music-making really is. As Dudamel proves, there is great power in that kind of joy.
I agree with Sigal that his enthusiasm is contagious. I especially enjoyed hearing him speak about the community aspect of El Sistema. I recently did some research on YOLA and was struck by what an important part of the program that sense of community is. The music is really a vehicle to achieve this sense of community. And the mentorship–older kids teaching younger kids from the beginning–is incredibly successful. What is interesting is that the peer mentorship was born out of necessity in Venezuela–there simply weren’t enough teachers–but as they soon discovered, and as Dudamel says in this video, “Jose Antonio Abreu created this way, and this way really works.” I will be curious to see what happens as YOLA expands, and as El Sistema expands both in the US and around the world.