Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gustavo Dudamel: Let The Children Play

"Perhaps it is music that will save the world" -- Pablo Casals

I first heard of El Sistema when I was introduced to City Music Cleveland's mission at a house concert with the Linden Quartet last year... the name resurfaced when I found out that Cleveland Orchestra Violinist and Heights Arts house concert organizer Isabel Trautwein was taking a sabbatical from the orchestra for an El Sistema-related fellowship...

Via the Cleveland Young Arts Professionals Network I learned the documentary "Dudamel: Let The Children Play" would be making a one-night-only appearance at a local movie theater -- and despite still not being fully over my cold I made my way to Severance Town Center (not to be confused with Severance Hall) for tonight's screening.

The event kicked off with an impactful piece from the League of American Orchestras promoting the diversity and impact of the American Orchestra -- including snapshots from orchestras around the country, with a young child leaning over the Box Level railing at Severance Hall making a cameo (I did resist the urge to shout "Oh! That's Severance!")

The actual prelude for the main event was a short piece titled "Crescendo" -- and I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I had any understanding at all of that piece's purpose, other than as a thinly veiled promo for CNN En Espanol.

Thankfully, the main act, Dudamel: Let The Children Play, was far more inspiring. For those who don't know the name, Gustavo Dudamel has been credited with renewed public interest in both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and classical music in general since he took over the post as the former's Music Director -- other than that I didn't know much about Mr. Dudamel. One of the first things we learned tonight is that Mr. Dudamel is a product of El Sistema, starting with a trumpet but short arms leading him to the violin, and many years later to the world stage as perhaps the most respected conductor of this generation.

Disturbingly, at times, Let The Children Play treats Mr. Dudamel as a Deity which was a bit disturbing... but on sum it was an amazingly moving documentary on how El Sistema has grown and impacted the lives of millions of children in dozens of countries since its founding three decades ago.

Perhaps most moving was the fact that across languages, much of the film was subtitled with Spanish being the predominant (but not only) language -- cultures, from Singapore and Scotland to Bolivia and Venezuela -- socioeconomic backgrounds and education -- music transcends to form a common language and inspiration for the children featured: A common thread is that be it Los Angeles or Caracas the children who are members of El Sistema-inspired orchestras profess that they are free-er and more inspired participating in their Orchestra -- and learning the importance of collaboration and teamwork -- than they are in school.


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