A superstar conductor, violinist and music education activist has won the Glenn Gould Prize and $100,000.
Venezuelan-born Gustavo Dudamel earned the biennial award, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Jose Antonio Abreu, who took the international prize in 2008. Currently serving as music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and music director of the Opéra National de Paris and Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Dudamel is known for his dynamic presence as a conductor and for his commitment to the humanitarian aspect of music.
“It was one of the greatest honours of my life when, in 2008, my maestro Jose Antonio Abreu was named the Glenn Gould Prize laureate,” Dudamel, 41, said in a statement. “To now be awarded this prestigious prize myself is something that fills me with a profound gratitude.”
Abreu founded El Sistema, a national music education system focused on developing the talents of mostly impoverished children in every part of Venezuela. The program’s motto is “music for social change.” El Sistema-inspired programs have flourished in many other countries, including Canada.
In addition to his cash prize, Dudamel receives a statue by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy. Under the terms of his award, Dudamel will travel to Toronto for an award gala next fall, and will select a young artist for a protégé award worth $25,000. In 2008, laureate Abreu chose Dudamel, who was 27 years old at the time and considered the star product of El Sistema.
Like his mentor, Dudamel advocates for access to music. In 2007, he teamed up with the LA Phil and community partners to found Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, which provides young people with free instruments and intensive music training.
Last year, Dudamel conducted the score to Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of West Side Story. In 2016, he participated in the Super Bowl halftime show along with Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars.
The Gould prize was created by the Toronto-based Glenn Gould Foundation in 1983 to acknowledge a living individual for a unique lifetime contribution who has enriched the human condition through the arts. It honours the legacy of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
The other nominees for the prize were not revealed. An 11-person international jury that included Karen Kain, k.d. lang and past laureate Robert Lepage was chaired by Bob Ezrin. “At the end of a thrilling day of deliberation, a great artist was chosen by our jury of great artists to be our laureate,” said Ezrin, a music producer and social activist best known for his work with classic rock legends Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.
Duhamel is the 14th laureate. He joins past winners R. Murray Schafer, Yehudi Menuhin, Oscar Peterson, Toru Takemitsu, Yo-Yo Ma, Pierre Boulez, André Previn, Leonard Cohen, Philip Glass, Jessye Norman, Alanis Obomsawin, Lepage and Abreu.