El Sistema produces a new, younger Gustavo Dudamel

A student in the El Sistema program in Venezuela performs the violin.
(Susana Gonzalez / For The Times)

Gustavo Dudamel, 31, seems practically middle-aged compared to Jose Angel Salazar, a 14-year-old El Sistema student who has gained attention recently for his talent as a conductor.

Salazar is the subject of a recent profile by Reuters that recounts his training in El Sistema,Venezuela’s state-funded program that provides free music education to disadvantaged youth. The report states that Salazar is the youngest conductor in the country.

Dudamel, who was also trained in El Sistema and is the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was in his early 20s when he started attracting international attention. At the time, El Sistema was less well-known and hadn’t yet become a model for other youth orchestra programs throughout the world.

The Reuters profile of Salazar states that the teenager has a fondness for symphonies by Franz Schubert and pieces by Vivaldi. He plays the violin and has served as a concertmaster. (Dudamel also played the violin before graduating to conducting.)


Salazar said that his first effort at conducting came by chance when his teacher had to leave the room. “Since no one was left in charge, I put down the violin and began to conduct,” he told Reuters.

Dudamel is also the music director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, which performed this week at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the London 2012 Festival.


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