Entertainment behind the scenes
That’s how actor Jack Black described Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at a free concert for 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday to welcome the 28-year-old Venezuelan conductor.
Black was one of many celebrities who joined the five-hour “Bienvenido Gustavo!” fest to tout music education for kids, a new audience for classical music and multicultural musical offerings — all espoused by Dudamel, the most popular export of Venezuela’s famous public music school network “El Sistema.” Music legends like Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendes, Herbie Hancock, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), actor Andy Garcia and composer John Williams also turned out for a night of music under the stars.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama got in on the act — not in person, but he did send a letter Saturday to the Los Angeles Philharmonic saying “music is the universal language which builds intercultural relationships” and he “hopes the L.A. Phil inspires others to study the arts.”
One of the highlights of the night came from a hundred kids from underprivileged South L.A. in the new El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, who made their Hollywood Bowl debut with Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Their families sat in the front, in what is known as the pool circle — the most coveted seats in the Bowl. VIPs and the city’s cultural elite sat behind them, sipping wine and picnicking.
A reporter asked the 28-year-old classical music sensation what he had on his iPod, to which Dudamel answered that he loved Latin music and was listening to the likes of Venezuelan salsa star Oscar D’Leon and Dominican crooner Juan Luis Guerra.
The biggest star at this year’s Venice film festival has arguably been Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Sure, George Clooney and Matt Damon have got the crowds going and can cause a minor media scrum with little effort, but Chavez and his large entourage of aides and guards is another matter altogether.
In town for the world premiere of Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border”, Chavez looked the part on the red carpet and giving interviews at a swanky hotel on the Lido waterfront. Spare a thought for the handful of reporters given a coveted slot with the leader, though. We were originally down to speak to Chavez and Stone at around 5:30 p.m., but, after a series of false alarms, we were moved to a different venue and eventually ended up speaking to them well after 10 p.m.