A Classical Music Rock Star

Gustavo Dudamel

By the time he was thirty years old, world-famous conductor Gustavo Dudamel had been called “the lightning conductor” who could turn a solid old symphony into “molten lava.” Today, part of his long term plan is to recreate the youth orchestra program for street youth that has been so successful in his native Venezuela. 

When it comes to classical music, Gustavo Dudamel is a total rock star. At age thirty, he was (by far) the youngest conductor of a major orchestra anywhere in the world. With his wild hair, all-consuming passion, and lively sense of humor, he is also one of the most popular.

Gustavo was a musical genius as a child, and began winning international conducting prizes when he was barely out of high school. But what has always been extraordinary about Gustavo Dudamel is not only his talent, but the way he has chosen to use that gift to improve the world.

As of this writing, as well as being in his twelfth year as music director of the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, Dudamel is also in his second season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. With his global reputation, he could have chosen to work with any orchestra in the world, but he chose the Los Angeles Philharmonic: and he did it for a very specific reason.

Dudamel, who came from a musical family in Venezuela, had his talent recognized and supported by “El Sistema” (The System)—a revolutionary music-training program in his home country that introduces poor kids, some of them street kids, to the discipline and self-esteem of great musicianship. Recognizing how The System changed his life, Dudamel decided to introduce the program to the United States, and the hard streets of Los Angeles were a perfect place to start. So, as part of his contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel insisted on being given the money and time to start a youth orchestra.

The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles gives poor and street youth a new focus in their lives and a new sense of accomplishment as they play to sold-out audiences at venues like the famous Hollywood Bowl. As well, Dudamel’s vision of spreading the idea across the U.S. is beginning to be realized, with new community and city youth orchestras being formed in several American cities.

Dudamel’s long-term dream is to see The System become as popular in other countries as it is in Venezuela, where 600 youth orchestras help a quarter of a million children stay out of trouble, develop self-discipline, and learn to believe in themselves.

Gustavo Dudamel knows firsthand that music can help change the lives of children and youth, and improve the society they live in.

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

The Man of the Sea

Jacques Cousteau

Famous for his award-winning underwater films, television shows, and books that gave the world a view of life under the ocean, ecologist Jacques Cousteau was also a talented inventor and dedicated environmental activist.

Naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author, researcher . . . you could go on for pages about all of the things Jacques Cousteau did with his remarkable life!

Many people outside France don’t know that Costeau was a war hero; he led daring commando operations inside occupied France during World War II. And many may not know that he helped invent the modern aqualung—the SCUBA system that’s used around the world.

Most people remember Jacques Cousteau for his amazing films, television shows, and books about the ocean. On board his ship Calypso, Cousteau and his crew traveled the world to film their documentaries about the life that teems beneath the surface of the water.

In the 1950s and 60s, Cousteau’s films marked the first time the majority of people had ever seen footage of undersea life in its natural state. And it was the first time that the general public heard about the dangers of pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and other threats to the natural world.

Jacques Cousteau is credited with being one of the first popular ecologists, inspiring a whole generation of young people to be more aware of their environment.

His long career (Cousteau lived to age eighty-seven) contained many other amazing achievements:

  • The first underwater archaeology operation using autonomous diving;
  • Discovering how porpoises use natural sonar to guide themselves;
  • Winning the top prize at the world-famous Cannes Film Festival for his documentary The Silent World;
  • Organizing a successful campaign to stop the dumping of nuclear waste in the oceans; and
  • Winning a long list of awards and medals from grateful nations and organizations around the world.

Through more than 120 television documentaries and fifty books, Cousteau helped make science and nature popular topics for everyday people, and he left a legacy that carries on his work. The Cousteau Society he founded to protect the environment now has 300,000 members. As rich and famous as he became, Jacques Cousteau always said he was just a man trying to do his bit to help the world. “It takes generosity to discover the whole through others,” he said. “If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.”

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

Enabling Childhood Creativity

TED Talks are Ideas Worth Spreading. Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, which was the scope of the talks when they began an in 1984. The scope of the talks has, over time, become far broader.

This TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, given in 2006, is about childhood creativity. It is one of my favourite and I’m not alone; it has been viewed more than 8.5 million times. Sir Ken Robinson is entertaining, informative and inspiring.

 

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You Raise Me Up!

This  video post is dedicated to the parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, friends and others who support and enable us to become our possibility. You make a difference. We are grateful. Thank you.

 

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