Hailed as a rock star in the world of classical music, Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel made his anticipated debut on Saturday as the director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with a five-hour free concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The big welcome celebration was titled “Bienvenido Gustavo!” and it drew musicians such as jazz great Herbie Hancock and pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, along with celebs like Andy Garcia and Jack Black, who was blown away by the 28-year-old maestro. “This dude’s on fire,” said the comedian, praising his work in helping disadvantaged children find hope through music.
Dudamel—who is a product of El Sistema, a music education program in Venezuela that takes underprivileged kids and turns them into symphony performers—is passionate about young people. As part of the night’s program, he conducted the Youth Orchestra L.A. in an arrangement of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth while a crowd of 17,400 multi-culti people watched on. “I think a few people speak Spanish out there,” he said. “What’s most important, my dear friends, is that we’re all united here by music, by Beethoven, by these children who are the future.”