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Conductor

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Two large banners hung on either side of Disney Hall's massive pipe organ. Both had the same image: a young man, hands outstretched, head cocked back letting his curled locks of hair hang, his mouth open slightly, eyes shut but not forcefully.

The word PASIÃ?N rested on top of the word GUSTAVO. The Venezuela-born Gustavo Dudamel sat under the two banners recently with L.A. Phil CEO Deborah Borda and John Adams - this generation's most renown symphony composer - to announce Dudamel's inaugural season as music director.

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The L.A. Philharmonic's doing well, according to CEO Deborah Borda. It doesn't need deliverance from any economic or artistic sins. The incoming music director and conductor is a savior of sorts. Borda's said it's hard to ignore Southern California's growing Latino population. Dudamel's ethnicity, Borda believes, paired with his stellar conducting chops were a match she couldn't resist luring to the L.A. Phil.

The marketing of conductors is important. Esa-Pekka Salonen became the L.A. Phil's conductor the same year of the L.A. Riots. Since then his youthful stare and Mona Lisa grin have been the face of the Philharmonic. Salonen has helped turn the L.A. Phil, arguably, into the leading performer of 20th Century orchestral compositions.

There's a new sheriff in town and there's no denying - as a matter of fact the Phil highlights - his Latin American heritage. Five words anchor the marketing material: Pasión, Vibrante, Radiante, Futuro, Eléctrico. The accents are significant in a region where the tilde on La Cañada and piñata is optional for many people. Dudamel said he wants to take orchestral music to people who don't usually attend Disney Hall. The L.A. Phil's started a youth orchestra outreach program in mostly African American and Latino neighborhoods. It's an attempt to reproduce on a small scale the populist, nationwide program in Venezuela that produced Dudamel.

The new sheriff's not going to upend things. He's not going to take a giant can opener to the top of Disney Hall. There's plenty of Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven to keep subscribers happy in Dudamel's first season. Two programs stand out as different: "Americas and Americans" a series organized by Dudamel that pairs Mexican and South American composers with American composers. And a John Adams-curated series highlighting composers who explore the light and dark of California.

I don't like using the word fiesta in English. But there's going to be a big one at the Hollywood Bowl on October 3rd. It's the "¡Bienvenido Gustavo!" concert (the L.A. Phil correctly uses the upside-down exclamation point) with tribute singers and bands all leading to Dudamel conducting, in the evening, Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

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