Gustavo Dudamel Conducts Side by Side

sidebyside1Saturday afternoon, twelve of our Dudamel Orchestra musicians sat Side by Side on the stage of Kresge Auditorium at MIT with their peers from other El Sistema inspired programs and Longy musicians waiting for the man himself. Right on time, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel jumped onstage and was welcomed by thunderous applause by the 1000 friends, family and classical music aficionados in the audience for this most thrilling of open rehearsals.

sidebyside3Conservatory Lab participating students were 7th graders Jose Fuentes (violin), Chavez Singletary (viola) and Brandon Volel (trumpet), 6th graders Ben Lee (flute), Mira Mehta (violin), Francis Puente (percussion) and Arianna Rodriguez (trumpet), 5th graders Olivia Cox (violin), Josh Dam (violin), Emmanuel DeJeanLouis (trumpet), and Sam Muzac (viola) and 4th grader Elijah Simon (clarinet).

sidebyside4It was amazing for these students to spend an hour with the full attention of one of the world’s greatest conductors focused on them at a moment when they had been incredibly well prepared for that attention by their teachers at their sending programs and at Longy. The students had spent seven Saturdays learning the two pieces, Bizet’s Farandole and the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 at Longy under the baton of Jorge Soto. Each participating program sent staff to lead sectionals and guide the students through these difficult pieces so when the Maestro stepped to the podium and asked the 100 assembled student musicians “What should we play?” they had a strong answer. They played through the first piece and Maestro Dudamel was clearly impressed. Next, he asked them to play it again and this time he was looking for little details to improve.

For the audience, it was wonderful to spend an hour watching the work of a conductor (and an orchestra) that you never get to see. To watch the stop and start and the why and how to improve was an education. Maestro Dudamel was projected on a large screen facing the audience and was able to speak simultaneously to the children, the university-age musicians, and the audience. He was charming and demanding and everyone knew they had learned by the end of the hour.

The beauty of the event crystallized at the end of the concert when the Maestro called for applause for the musicians and singled them out, section by section. He then waded through the sea of musicians to bring up to the front, 6th grader Francis Puente, a St. Columbkille student who has been studying percussion with Resident Artist Tess Plotkin here at Conservatory Lab for the last two years. “This is the best timpani player I have ever heard!” exclaimed the Maestro. This is all the more remarkable as Francis’ left wrist is in a cast. After the concert, Maestro Dudamel signed Francis’ cast, posed for pictures and ensured that this was an afternoon we will never forget.