Friday, January 9, 2009

Dude, where's my baton?

Teenagers find themselves in different ways. Kurt Cobain grabbed a guitar, Eddie Murphy started doing standup, and Bill Gates learned to program his school's computer.

Improbable as it may seem, many kids in modern-day Venezuela find a direction in classical music. Thanks to their thriving national music education program, "El Sistema," they're exposed to instruments, composition and conducting from a young age.

One prodigy who emerged from El Sistema is Gustavo Dudamel. The shaggy-haired young conductor started leading the national Venezuelan youth orchestra at just 15 and has since shot to international acclaim as a conducting phenom.

He's in town this weekend to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; my Flavorpill preview is here.

Thanks to the generosity of my parents, I will be fortunate to attend tonight's benefit, at which Dudamel will be joined onstage for the first time by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Meanwhile, here's 60 Minutes' Bob Simon to tell us more about "Gustavo the Great":

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