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The LA Phil heads to Asia and Dudamel prepares to meet youth orchestra in Fukushima

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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Tonight at the Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. Philharmonic will perform composer John Adams' "City Noir," a piece written about Los Angeles. But the orchestra is also taking the piece overseas, performing the symphonic work during a tour of Asia.

During their time on the other side of the Pacific, Gustavo Dudamel — the conductor and music director of the L.A. Phil — will facilitate a joint youth orchestra program between Youth Orchestra L.A. (YOLA) and children in a newly formed Japanese youth orchestra whose members are survivors of the Fukushima disaster. The orchestra is the latest outpost of the famed El Sistema program, the very program that gave Dudamel his start in Venezuela as a boy.

The Frame's host John Horn spoke with L.A. Philharmonic Association President Deborah Borda to learn more about the L.A. Phil's plans for Asia. 

Interview Highlights: 

How did the idea to establish a youth orchestra in Fukushima first come about? 

"This idea sprang out of the terrible tragedy that happened there. El Sistema programs are generally established as kind of intervention programs in economically disadvantaged communities that offer really high-quality music and orchestral instruction." 

What is the relationship going to be between YOLA and  the new orchestra in Fukushima?

"Our students will travel to Fukushima, work with the students up there, then they will travel to Tokyo together. Then when they're ready, Gustavo rehearses the youth orchestra first alone and then in front of an audience... The YOLA and El Sistema Japanese students will then play in an open rehearsal with Gustavo and they're going to work on the final movement of Dvorak's 8th Symphony."

The Youth Orchestra component is dovetailing at one point with the Philharmonic's tour of Asia, so let's talk a little bit now about the L.A. Philharmonic. How long has this tour of Asia been in the works and what was the thing that set it in motion? 

"Well, we plan our tours three to four years in advance... And we rotate our tours. So one year we will tour to Europe, the next year we'll do a national tour then the year after that we'll generally tour to Asia." 

What is the conversation you have of what kind of music you want to bring to that territory, and also what kind of music the Philharmonic can showcase? 

"The Philharmonic always takes programs, be it on a national tour, to Europe or to Asia, that are really emblematic of our role as a leading orchestra of the world, but also at the very cutting edge of defining what classical music and orchestras will be in the 21st century." 

On the program for L.A. Phil's 2015 Asia Tour: 

Mahler's 6th Symphony 

John Adams' "City Noir"

Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony 

You talked about the years of preparation for a tour like this — what's the payoff for the Philharmonic, both from an artistic and marketing standpoint? 

"First of all... What better way to represent our city and our culture than to take this great orchestra and show it to the world? The other benefit is for the Los Angeles Philharmonic itself to work as a team, to work through the adversity... it's very difficult being on one of these tours... What this creates is a sense of community. Not only emotional community but artistic community. When the orchestra goes on tour, from each tour, it grows and it comes back an even greater symphony." 

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