08 December 2016
Gustavo Dudamel honored by Inter-American Development Bank for cultural & social work
Read Gustavo's speech, delivered at the December 14 ceremony, below.
"It is a great honor for me to receive this recognition, the Enrique Iglesias chair. I receive it on behalf of the thousands of children, youth and teachers that make the National System of Choirs and Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela alive, and in the more than 50 countries around the world that have taken this project as their own.
I would like to begin with an anecdote: two decades ago I had the opportunity to come with the National Children's Symphony of Venezuela to perform a concert at the Inter-American Development Bank. I was twelve years old at that time. We played the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony and the last movement of Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony, two works that curiously have one common concept: fate. I remember that trip because it was the first time I left my country. I also remember it because, with the same fascination with which Aureliano Buendía discovered ice, that first night I had the opportunity to discover snow.
Understanding music as a vehicle for development is to understand music and art as a means to disseminate and sow values such as good, truth and beauty, constituting them as spiritual tools to break down social barriers, diminish and eradicate differences, unite people and sow development.
In that sense, as Maestro José Antonio Abreu once mentioned, music and art are the very spirit of society. Music is intimately linked to our development, from the very birth of a child. Music is part of those fundamental games that allow us to grow, to acquire social and emotional skills, which become evident every day in the productive world. In other words, a child full of art and music is better prepared for the future than a child who does not live with them.
I must say that for me, the exercise of music and art is as important as health care, education, mathematics, science, because it is nothing more and nothing less than the spiritual health of our citizens. More and more vehemently, scholars of social health make less difference between the physical and the spiritual, giving the latter a fair place of preponderance. A child full of imagination and inspiration, a child who lives with them from an early age has better tools to confront the avatars of the modern world than the child who has only access to scientific and pragmatic knowledge.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the orchestra of a small Venezuelan town called Upata, located in the heart of the Bolívar State in southeastern Venezuela. I had recently gone on tour with the Vienna Philharmonic, where we played the New World Symphony of Antonín Dvorák. When we arrived in Upata, they took me to a gymnasium where more than 3,000 children were waiting with their families to, as they always do, untie the knots of art and beauty. After this moving performance, I was transferred to the house where they had their daily rehearsal, a place immensely humble but infinitely full of hope. Upon entering the garage of this house, not by chance, was the youth orchestra of the city performing the Dvorák New World Symphony. I must say tonight, that I never heard a more correct and beautiful version than the one given to me by those young people. I left there with my heart full of music, but also with a deep certainty: art is future.
Once I heard Maestro Abreu - who has been my inspiration and that of thousands of music promoters around the world – say that the worst modern crime is to have taken away from the poor children in the world the access to beauty and art. We must understand, my friends, that the condition of vulnerability that generates poverty is reversible through music, art and inspiration. The child touched by beauty will never be the same.
From the sociological point of view, the reasons are equally powerful: once children or young people begin to appreciate the tangible results of art, their family and community make them everyday heroes, positive references, indicators of success. I see it constantly: when children play for the first time in front of their parents, a profound transformation takes place in their lives from that moment, because they happen to have their own voice, their own identity, first for their family, later for their neighbors, then for the rest of the world. Sport is also a powerful tool for social transformation. But I must say that in an orchestra, for example, all children are part of a single team, and the subsequent mission of the collective exercise is focused not on winning or losing, not on winning or defeating, but on the creation of collective harmony. An orchestra is successful only when all of its members pursue the same dream and understand in depth the value of the other, the transcendental importance of who is by your side. Can we then imagine a more beautiful metaphor to define a society, a country or a world?
Everything to which I make mention this evening is no longer a reckless perception or an idea without foundation. Today we know in a scientific way how music and art are certainly an instrument for development. It is worth mentioning the study carried out jointly between the Inter-American Development Bank and FundaMusical Simón Bolívar, where it is evident that children and young people who experience beauty and inspiration as a daily activity, those who live the music, those that are part of it, improve their social, school and personal behavior. Simple: access to art and music makes them better citizens. Let's see it like this, music and art are a great machine for the future.
I recently had the honor of presenting the National Art Awards of the United States in Washington. Among other things, at that time I said something that I would like to share with you today: "From the caves of Altamira to the canvases of Jackson Pollok, from the Sumerian hymns (the oldest musical piece known to man) to the enchanting music of Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, art has always been a traveling companion of the human spirit”. Today I tell you that if all of us want a better future, we must ensure that this former traveling companion is always on the side of future generations.
In the same way that the 12-year-old boy discovered snow, and would never forget it, the exercise of beauty is an indelible mark that we can all give to the future of thousands of children.
I thank all of you deeply for the wonderful work you are doing and I invite you not to rest in this luminous mission of eternity to which we have joined.
Thank you very much."