Gustavo Dudamel is one of those extremely rare conductors to draw international attention while still in his twenties. For a musician who only began studying conducting in 1995 and made his professional debut in 2005, he has ascended the steep ladder to podium renown in almost unprecedented fashion.
He was born on January 26, 1981, in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. His father was a trombone player who performed in local bands and his mother was a vocal teacher. Dudamel began lessons on the violin at 10, having previously studied in a government-sponsored music program in grade school. Later, at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory, he studied violin with José Luis Jiménez and at the Latin American Violin Academy with José Francisco del Castillo. In 1995 he began conducting studies with Rodolfo Saglimbeni, but his most important teaching influence was conductor José Antonio Abreu, who served as his mentor. Dudamel's 1999 appointment as music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar allowed him to conduct regular concerts and make concert tours abroad.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Dudamel was arguably the most sought-after conductor under the age of 30, and was the first in many years to be appointed music director of a major orchestra -- in this case, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, beginning in 2009-2010. Dudamel did not step onto that podium as anything approaching a novice, since he had already served as principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, beginning in 2007. Since 1999 he has served as music director of the Venezuelan national youth orchestra (known as the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar). Besides the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he has led the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, and Dresden State Orchestra. Dudamel signed a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2005.
Dudamel has won a number of conducting competitions, the most important of which was the 2004 Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition held in Bamberg, Germany. Following that triumph, Dudamel began receiving a flood of invitations to conduct the world's major orchestras. Dudamel's first recording with Deutsche Grammophon was the 2006 CD of Beethoven Symphonies No. 5 and No. 7, with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. In April 2007, Dudamel led the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra in a concert given at the Vatican before Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his 80th birthday. This concert was taped by DG and subsequently issued on DVD in August 2007.