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New York Hails Maestro as a ‘Monstro’ and a Boon to Young Musicians

Eduardo Cordova, a bartender at the Venezuelan restaurant Casa Ora in Brooklyn, greeted the naming of Gustavo Dudamel as the New York Philharmonic’s next music director and its first Hispanic leader with high praise.

“He’s a ‘monstro,’” Mr. Cordova said, speaking in Spanish and using a slang term that translates as “monster” in English but that had a different meaning in this context.

“Someone who has achieved a lot, a person who is talented,” said Mr. Cordova, who has lived in New York for six years and, like Mr. Dudamel, was born in Venezuela.

Susie Jaramillo, a children’s book author and the chief executive of the youth-oriented entertainment company Encantos, used the Spanish phrase “orgullo patrimonial,” or national pride, to describe her reaction to Mr. Dudamel’s hiring.

“To see him put our culture on such a pedestal, it’s incredible,” said Ms. Jaramillo, who was born in Caracas.

“The other thing about Dudamel,” she added, “is that he is an example of someone who went from nothing to everything, and there are so many Venezuelan kids coming into the country right now and need to see hope.”

Casa Ora’s owner, Ivo Diaz, expressed similar pride at hearing of his fellow Venezuelan’s prominent new post. Venezuela, Mr. Diaz said, is often portrayed in the media merely as the source of thousands of migrants who have come to the United States in recent years, and are now the focus of a contentious political debate.

“Every time we hear good news, it’s important,” Mr. Diaz said, speaking in Spanish. He added, “It’s like it’s always bad news, bad news. So it means the world to see good news and to see us represented well.”

Ismael Guevara is among those who made the arduous journey from Venezuela to the United States and, eventually, New York. Now housed at the city’s Brooklyn Cruise Terminal men’s shelter, Mr. Guevara was familiar with Mr. Dudamel and happy to hear about the next phase of his career.

“He’s really, really good, he’s very well-prepared,” Mr. Guevara said in Spanish, adding that “for me, it’s great, and it’s a source of pride.”

Ali Bello, a Venezuelan-born violinist who has long lived in New York and was trained in the country’s El Sistema music education program, which also produced Mr. Dudamel, said their shared foundation had surely helped his countryman reach such lofty heights.

“This is not luck,” Mr. Bello said. In addition to providing rigorous training in music, he noted, the El Sistema program emphasizes the importance of ensemble play and working with others in ways that carry well beyond the orchestra stage.

Learning from a young age that “we are only as good as we are, as a group” had meshed well with Mr. Dudamel’s superior musicianship, winning personality and powerful charisma to fuel his success, Mr. Bello said.

Members of New York’s Venezuelan diaspora were not the only ones who were excited by the announcement that Mr. Dudamel would soon take the Philharmonic’s helm.

The city is home to several youth music organizations with roots in the principles of social action through music that El Sistema promotes. Leaders of those groups said they believed Mr. Dudamel’s presence would be felt far beyond the orchestra’s Lincoln Center headquarters.

“I think there have been many missed opportunities to have a deep impact on music education across the city,” said Alvaro Rodas, an Ecuadorean-born percussionist and the founder and director of one such group, the Corona Youth Music Project in Queens. Based on Mr. Dudamel’s track record in Los Angeles, Mr. Rodas said, that seemed likely to change.

Anne Fitzgibbon, the founder and executive director of the Harmony Program, another organization that was inspired by El Sistema and provides after-school music education in schools that otherwise have limited access to it, said Mr. Dudamel’s move from Los Angeles would have a “seismic impact” on children like the ones her group works with.

“He has genuine commitment to promoting excellence as well as access to music education,” Ms. Fitzgibbon said.

Luigi Auquilla, who learned violin through the Harmony Program and is now a New York University junior studying political science, said he “couldn’t be more excited” about Mr. Dudamel’s joining the Philharmonic.

Mr. Auquilla, who had a chance to play under Mr. Dudamel’s direction at a festival in Mexico City in 2018, said he had been impressed at the way the conductor treated the young musicians: “the same way he would treat any other orchestra players.”

How did he expect Mr. Dudamel to use his new position to advance music education in New York?

“Spreading the love,” Mr. Auquilla said.

Brittany Kriegstein contributed reporting.

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