Gustavo Dudamel 2018 Recipient

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“Superstar Conductor” Gustavo Dudamel to Receive The 25th Annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Visionary Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and World-Renowned Advocate for Music as an Inspiration for Social Change Will Be Honored on Tuesday, December 4 at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center

New York, NY [October 18, 2018] — The Gish Prize Trust today announced that the inspired Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, has been selected to receive the 25th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of his ongoing achievements as a conductor and an advocate for music education. Established in 1994 through the will of legendary stage and screen actress Lillian Gish, known as the First Lady of Cinema, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is one of the most prestigious honors given to artists in the United States and bears one of the largest cash awards, currently valued at approximately $250,000.

The Gish Prize is given each year to a highly accomplished artist from any discipline who has pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change and paved the way for the next generation. The selection committee for the 2018 Gish Prize chose Dudamel from among more than 70 outstanding finalists in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature and arts administration. Dudamel now joins a list of distinguished honorees that includes Meredith Monk, Elizabeth LeCompte, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Anna Deavere Smith, Spike Lee, Trisha Brown, Laurie Anderson, Frank Gehry, Peter Sellars and Bob Dylan.

The Gish Prize will be presented to Dudamel on the evening of Tuesday, December 4 at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center. The private ceremony, attended by leaders of the arts community, will include remarks by architect Frank Gehry and Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican Centre in London. Adam Clark, Managing Director and Global Head of Trust & Estates, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, which administers the award as trustee of the Gish Prize Trust, will welcome the honoree and guests.

Gustavo Dudamel said: “I am deeply humbled to receive the Gish Prize. You can’t imagine the rush of adrenaline such news gave me. It’s at times like this that I become somewhat introspective about the work we do to ensure the arts reach as many people as possible and this moment makes me commit to redoubling my efforts. The recognition is great, but this really belongs to the remarkable people of all ages who work with me to make our magic happen.”

Hailed by The New Yorker as a “superstar conductor,” Gustavo Dudamel has won recognition for the exceptional depth, power and excitement of his interpretations of a wide variety of repertoire and for his impassioned advocacy for access to music education, and for music as a resource for social change. Under Dudamel’s leadership, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been acclaimed for its unmatched commitment to new music, diversity, and groundbreaking digital initiatives. This year, the LA Philharmonic celebrates its 100th anniversary with a season that includes the premieres of more than 50 commissions from luminaries such as John Adams, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, as well as younger composers including Julia Adolphe, Ashley Fure, Andrew Norman, Tyshawn Sorey, Kamasi Washington, and Du Yun. The anniversary also includes a significant expansion of a program closely identified with Dudamel, the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) initiative. Founded in 2007, the program has provided access to quality music education for thousands of children from underserved communities in Los Angeles.

In 2017, Dudamel became the youngest conductor ever to lead the Vienna Philharmonic’s famous New Year’s Day Concert. He is the recipient of a 2018 Paez Medal of Art; 2016 Americas Society Cultural Achievement Award; 2014 Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society, given by Bard College’s Longy School of Music; Musical America’s 2013 Musician of the Year award; the 2010 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT; induction into Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2013 and into the l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres as a Chevalier in 2009. He has several honorary degrees and received the 2008 Q Prize from the Harvard School of Public Health. One of the few classical musicians to reach mainstream audiences while maintaining the highest musical integrity, Dudamel was named a 2011 Gramophone Artist of the Year and made TIME’s list of the “world’s hundred most influential people” in 2009; and was the subject of a PBS special, Dudamel: Conducting a Life.

Nate Bachhuber, former administrator for artistic planning of the LA Phil, told String Magazine that the passion, energy and sense of experimentation for which Dudamel’s performances are known are based on an extraordinary versatility: “His skills are so ridiculously in tune that he can conduct anything.” Dudamel’s commitment is infectious. As he told the Times of London, “Love makes me a better conductor.” The LA Phil’s principal clarinetist, Michele Zukofsky, told the New York Times, “When he’s conducting the piece, you’re feeling like it’s just been composed, it’s like he’s creating it himself. He throws away the past. You’re not bogged down by what’s supposed to be. It’s like jazz, in a way.”

Commenting on the decision to award Gustavo Dudamel the 2018 Gish Prize, Richard Armstrong, head of the Prize selection committee, said, “The jury felt that Gustavo Dudamel embodies the values of the Gish Prize, having widened both audience and enthusiasm for the already exceptional Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel’s charismatic joy as a conductor of some of the world’s leading orchestras is precisely what the Gish Prize stands for and is meant to acknowledge. Further, his demonstrated commitment to access to music for all is uniquely commendable. We salute in particular the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles as typical of Dudamel’s contributions to the beauty of the world. Bravo, Maestro Dudamel.”

“The fact that the Gish Prize chooses to focus on the arts is hugely important because the arts have transformational powers,” said Dudamel. “Especially in turbulent periods like the one we find ourselves in now, I believe it is important to pursue the creation of art and beauty that much more intensively.”

This year’s Prize selection committee was chaired by Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. The committee included Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater; Linda Shelton, Executive Director of the Joyce Theater; Amy Hobby, Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Institute; and Zeyba Rahman, Senior Program Officer of the Building Bridges Program of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Dr. Alberta Arthurs serves as consultant to JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. for the Gish Prize.

Speaking for JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Adam Clark stated, “With the help of our esteemed selection committee, we have continued to support Lillian Gish’s vision of recognizing and celebrating those artists who have made an indelible impact through their work. In choosing Dudamel, this year’s committee underscores the mission of the Prize to recognize and encourage the power of art to change lives, and to empower people everywhere to help change their world for the better. We congratulate Gustavo Dudamel on receiving this high honor.”

Gustavo Dudamel (b.1981) was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. As a child, he studied violin with José Luis Jiménez, Francisco Díaz, Rubén Cova and José Francisco del Castillo at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory and Latin American Academy of Violin. In 1996, he studied with Rodolfo Saglimbeni and was named Music Director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, he was appointed Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. Dudamel was most shaped by his childhood experience with El Sistema, the extraordinary program of immersive musical training initiated in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu. Dudamel achieved international attention by winning the inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Competition in 2004. He then went on to become Music Director of the Gothenburg Symphony (2007-2012), where he currently holds the title Honorary Conductor. Inspired by Dudamel’s early musical and mentoring experiences, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation, a registered charity, was created in 2012 with the goal of promoting access to music as a human right and a catalyst for learning, integration, and social change. He has worked to raise awareness of the importance of music education by appearing at the United Nations and the White House, and delivered an address on the unity of the arts and sciences during his appearance at the 2017 Nobel Prize Concert. Driven by an unwavering belief in the power of music to heal, unite, and inspire, Dudamel’s remarkable career championing access to the arts for young people around the world demonstrates music’s capacity to transform people’s lives.

About The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Established in 1994 through the will of Lillian Gish, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is given annually to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Past recipients are Meredith Monk, Elizabeth LeCompte, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Spike Lee, Anna Deavere Smith, Trisha Brown, Chinua Achebe, Pete Seeger, Robert Redford, Laurie Anderson, Shirin Neshat, Peter Sellars, Ornette Coleman, Bill T. Jones, Lloyd Richards, Jennifer Tipton, Merce Cunningham, Arthur Miller, Isabel Allende, Bob Dylan, Robert Wilson, Ingmar Bergman, and Frank Gehry. Prize recipients are nominated by the arts community and chosen by a distinguished committee of arts leaders for their groundbreaking work in their chosen fields. For further information, visit

About Dorothy and Lillian Gish

Dorothy and Lillian Gish followed their mother onto the stage at an early age. The older of the two sisters, Lillian took her first theatrical curtain call in 1902 at the age of eight in the play In Convict’s Stripes. In 1912, the sisters’ childhood friend Mary Pickford introduced them to D.W. Griffith, who launched their film careers. Lillian would become one of America’s best-loved actresses. In her 85-year career, she appeared in more than 100 films—from Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy (1912) to Lindsay Anderson’s The Whales of August (1987)—and also took numerous roles in television and on stage. Dorothy Gish began her stage career at the age of four and also went on to make more than 100 films, many of them with Lillian. Dorothy’s early work in film highlighted her keen sense of humor, bringing her acclaim as a star of comedy. At the end of the silent era, she turned her attention to the stage, where success in Young Love brought her accolades with New York audiences, on the road and subsequently in London. In 1939 Dorothy and Lillian each played Vinnie Day, wife of Clarence Day, Sr., in two extensive American road company productions of Life with Father. Dorothy returned to film and television in the 1950s. Upon her death in 1968, Dorothy Gish left the bulk of her estate to the arts. Lillian Gish died in 1993 and also left the bulk of her estate to the arts, including a trust for the formation of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

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Photo by Julieta Cervantes

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