By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The Philharmonic should have reached out to the Latino community 20 years ago, De Leon de Vega says. (See accompanying story.) With the ranks of classical-music fans shrinking by the day, she wonders if it is already too late.
Los Angeles is now home to essentially one local classical radio station, KUSC-FM.
“We definitely have a large contingent of 65-plus listeners,” says Brenda Barnes, the station’s president. “It’s not a new phenomenon for KUSC or classical music in general. If you look at any classical radio station across the country, you will see the audience demographic is 35-plus, even stronger as 50-plus.
“In commercial radio, an ‘older’ audience is defined as 26. Eighteen to 24 is their audience,” Barnes says. “From their perspective, our audience is ancient.”
One reason is the shifting musical landscape. “It used to be that music defined you,” Barnes says. “Back in my days of high school and college, you were a rocker, or you were a pop person. You were defined by your music.
“These days, it’s not true. Anybody listens to six, seven, eight kinds of music, and likes all of them. It’s a different world. Classical music is part of a bigger field.”
In fact, there is a term for these listeners: “omnivores.”
But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing for classical music. In fact, omnivores might give reason for hope. At least they appreciate classical music, and they sample it. When they sample Dudamel, perhaps what they hear will make them less omnivorous.
Orchestra members predict that listeners will easily notice the difference.
“Dudamel has a way of bringing the best out of everyone,” says Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour. “He probably studies, first and foremost, the emotional angle of music. That’s what’s magical. You need a visionary, guiding light, and he is that.”
Clarinetist David Howard agrees, likening Dudamel to Bernstein. “When Bernstein conducted us, it was like giving the orchestra a group hug, making us all feel like we were in the best club in the whole world,” Howard says. “Dudamel has the same thing. He embraces the music and the musicians at the same time.
“I don’t think he went to school to learn something like that. I don’t think it’s a study. If he has got guile, I haven’t seen it at all. He is just so warm in his embrace of everything that goes on,” Howard adds.
Every talent is unique, and there will never be another Dudamel. But it did take a system greatly supported by the Venezuelan government over many years to discover, nurture and support that great talent.
Can the City of Angels rise to the challenge?
Somewhere in Los Angeles right now, there is a youngster whose potential is undreamed of, and who may never otherwise have the chance to develop it. Dudamel, the Philharmonic and all the supporting groups of YOLA and other music-education programs are devoted to finding and nurturing such a kid. Actually, they hope they’ll find many thousands.
“What we’re hoping to achieve,” says the Philharmonic’s Nielsen, “is providing children with wide access to quality music instruction. We’re talking about pathways for kids to create music. It’s crucial. Otherwise, kids just won’t get it.”
Or, as an 11-year-old violinist in Arvelo’s documentary puts it: “I imagine that God must be like music because something so beautiful can only be the work of God.”