Arts, Culture & Media

A Los Angeles symphony conductor finds himself in the middle of a Venezuelan protest


Venezuela's classical music superstar Gustavo Dudamel is embroiled in his country's political controversy.


Jorge Silva/Reuters

Gustavo Dudamel is the 33 year-old wunderkind conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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He's also from Venezuela and has become the most public face of Venezuela's famed national music education program, called "El Sistema." El Sistema is a federally funded government arts program, but, throughout its 39-year history, it has been proud of being above politics.

Gustavo Dudamel grew up in El Sistema and still retains close ties to it. But now, with the political protests taking place in Venezuela, there are people asking Dudamel to take sides and speak out. They see Dudamel as an arm of the government.

Mark Swed, a music critic for The Los Angeles Times, spoke to Gustavo Dudamel earlier this week. He says Dudamel is perhaps frustrated. He doesn't want to take a stand. 

He fears that if he takes a stand, it could threaten El Sistema. And Swed says Dudamel wants to a protect the program as much as he can and to keep it "as separated from politics as he can possibly make it."

But things may come to a head tonight. That's when Maestro Dudamel takes the baton and conducts the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

The orchestra is one of the most famous to come out of the El Sistema program. A group of protesters who oppose the Venezuelan government are expected to be demonstrating outside the concert hall.