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(PC: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel Receives Honorary Doctorate from Harvard 

Harvard University has honored Dudamel with an honorary Doctor of Music

 

Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel is among six recipients of Harvard University's honorary degrees for this year, including an educator, theoretical physicist, advocate for the elderly, writer, and Nobel laureate.

“Known for his dynamic musicianship and his devotion to the power of the arts,” writes the Harvard Gazette, Dudamel is currently the music and artistic director of both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

He has conducted major orchestras worldwide in programs including composers from Beethoven to Mahler to John Adams, and has a discography of more than 65 recordings.

In 2026, he will begin his tenure as the music and artistic director of the New York Philharmonic.

Born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Dudamel began playing violin in his youth through the El Sistema program. He first studied conducting with Rodolfo Saglimbeni, and at age 18, became music director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra. He gained international acclaim at age 23 when he won the inaugural Gustav Mahler Competition in 2004. 

The El Sistema training program later inspired Dudamel and the LA Phil to create YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) in 2007 — which provides 1,500 young people with free instruments, intensive music instruction, academic support, and leadership training.

Dudamel went on to become the music director of the Gothenburg Symphony from 2007 to 2012, where he now holds the title of Honorary Conductor. His discography, many of which are GRAMMY Award-winning, includes 65 releases. 

Additionally, he co-chairs The Dudamel Foundation with his wife, actress, and director Mara Valverde. Founded in 2012, the Foundation aims “to expand access to music and the arts for young people by providing tools and opportunities to shape their creative futures.”

Named one of TIME’s most influential people in 2009, Duduamel’s other honors include Spain’s Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, the Konex Foundation Classical Music Award, the International Society for the Performing Arts’ Distinguished Artist Award, and the Americas Society Cultural Achievement Award.

“I am deeply moved by receiving an honorary degree from Harvard University. As a child in Barquisimeto, I could not have imagined that one day I would be recognized by this extraordinary institution,” Dudamel posted on Facebook

“Education is perhaps the greatest gift we can give. Throughout my life, it has helped me establish my sense of identity, both as an individual and as a member of a global community,” he added. “When the challenges of the world begin to overwhelm us, I think the best way to persevere is to approach each other with curiosity, empathy, and a desire to learn. It is only through knowledge and understanding that we can heal, inspire, and guide the world towards a more compassionate future.”

The full list of Harvard University’s 2024 honorary degree recipients can be viewed here. The 2024 commencement address can be viewed below.

 

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