Dudamel makes surprise debut at the White House

The star conductor was supposed to be an audience member like any other.

But during a lunchtime awards ceremony at the White House this week, Gustavo Dudamel was so taken by the Marine Chamber Orchestra that he found himself conducting an impromptu performance.

While watching the orchestra, the Venezuelan maestro and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic told philharmonic president Deborah Borda, who was sitting beside him, how impressed he was.

Borda told The LA Times: “During the luncheon Gustavo remarked that the Marine Chamber Orchestra was very good. So I asked the conductor whether she would like to have Gustavo Dudamel conduct.”

Dudamel led the first movement of Mozart Symphony No. 25 (“Little G-Minor”). Borda said: “…suddenly the entire place fell quiet. It was a moment of magic.”

The Venezuelan maestro was in Washington DC as he had been invited to a private dinner at the National Gallery of Art that evening in order to give a keynote speech to recipients of the National Medal of Arts and Humanities.

President Obama awarded the medals to composer Philip Glass, playwright Luis Valdez, actor Morgan Freeman and 21 others.

Dudamel used his keynote speech to discuss the need to fund children’s arts programmes. He described arriving in LA during his first year conducting the LA Philharmonic, and meeting a young boy who wanted to join the Youth Orchestra.

He said: “The 11 miles Adam had travelled from home must have been the most important trip of his life. Simply put: the boy who left South Central that afternoon was not the same person upon his return.”