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Music for the People


Gustavo Dudamel returns to the stage. It’s opening night for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The orchestra is in California. Dudamel is the conductor. He lifts his arms and the orchestra explodes with the Star Wars theme. At the end, the audience leaps to its feet.

Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


Music can transform us, Dudamel says. “You’re sitting there for a symphony that is 30 or 50 minutes, and time is gone,” he says. “You are on a journey of harmony and beauty. It unites us, even if we come in feeling completely different.”

A Musical Education

Dudamel was raised in Venezuela. When he was 5 years old, he joined El Sistema. That’s a classical-music education and performance program in Venezuela. It’s for disadvantaged youth.

Violins and violas are among the instruments that students play in Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.


Dudamel started a similar program in California in 2007. It’s called Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, or YOLA. (See “Classical Rocks.”) One place it plays is the Beckmen YOLA Center, in Inglewood. When Dudamel first saw the place, he cried.

Members of YOLA’s brass section play at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2019.


He remembers something his teacher in Venezuela once told him. The teacher said the young musicians of El Sistema shouldn’t have to make do with a program that’s “good enough.” They should have the best.


The lesson for Dudamel? “Give children the resources, and they will create their own future,” he says.

Dudamel leads a rehearsal at the Beckmen YOLA Center.


Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn’t have put it better.

Classical Rocks


YOLA offers exciting opportunities. In 2016, it played at the Super Bowl. It performed with Coldplay. That’s a British band. Bruno Mars and Beyoncé followed. At a rehearsal, students looked forward to the experience. “I love football,” one of them said. “And getting to play on that stage, like all the other artists, is amazing.” —By Jaime Joyce