Dudamel ticket hopefuls find exhilaration, disappointment at Bowl
No, the very happy woman in this photo did not just win the California Lottery.
Instead, Dezi Koster, a "transplanted Aussie" now living in Westchester, is the proud recipient of four free tickets to see 28-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 3, conducting his first concert as leader of the celebrated orchestra.
Koster was one of 1,000 people who spent a hot morning in line Saturday at the Bowl, some arriving as early as 5 a.m., with the hope of getting free tickets Starting at noon, the first 246 or 247 received up to four seats. The rest went home empty-handed as demand outstripped supply. Countless more tried and failed to get tickets by phone and online, but no matter the method, tickets were gone in 1 hour and 20 minutes
The Bowl has long been known for bringing classical music to ordinary people in a casual arena far from the sometimes intimidating confines of the traditional concert hall. But Dudamel and the Philharmonic have taken the populist appeal of the Bowl to a new level by presenting "¡Bienvenido Gustavo!," the first concert of his inaugural season, for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
The box office, online registration and phone lines opened at noon -- but hopefuls began arriving at the Bowl as early as 5 a.m., waiting for the Bowl parking lots to open at 8 a.m. Philharmonic officials told Culture Monster that 800 to 1,000 people showed up at the Bowl. Tickets were gone by 1:20 p.m.
The Bowl seats 18,000, and almost 12% of them were reserved for production staff, VIPs and educational partners of the Phil, said Arvind Manocha, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.
By the afternoon, scalpers were already posting tickets for online resale. “There is going to be a resale market for this, which is unfortunate,” Manocha said. "It’s out of our control, other than to be saddened by it.”
Koster let out a whoop when she discovered that her dedication had led to four seats in one of the Bowl's coveted garden boxes. "This is amazing; I've been here a month and it's my first time visiting the Bowl," she exulted. Said her friend Clyde Baumgardner, also of Westchester: "It will be an incredible performance.... The warm-up acts are headliners ... and there's fireworks!"
Koster arrived at 5 a.m. to become the second person in line for tickets; the first was a Los Angeles woman who did not want her face photographed or to give her name but said she came to the Bowl at the crack of dawn because "we have a new conductor." That's her in the photo, hiding behind her lucky tickets.
The diverse crowd hoping to be part of the Dudamel experience was allowed to begin lining up at the ticket windows at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m., the first 250 were issued numbered yellow wristbands to hold their place in line when the ticket kiosks opened at noon.
Nancy Perdomo-Browning of Culver City didn't know about the Dudamel concert giveaway until she saw an advertisement on Saturday morning, but then raced to the Bowl, arriving at 9 a.m. She has a particular connection with Dudamel: She too is Venezuelan. Although she did not get a wristband, she stayed in line, hoping to get tickets for herself and her 12-year-old daughter, who is a musician. "I didn't give up when others walked away," she said. "I've been a fan of Dudamel long before anyone ever knew about him.... I'm proud to be a Venezuelan.
Perdomo-Browning was not the only one who showed up too late for a wristband but queued up anyway, hoping for the best. It was hot, and the line snaked down the hill all the way past the Hollywood Bowl Museum and into the lower parking lots.
There was some confusion and disgruntlement among patrons who did not understand the first-come, first-served ticketing process. Because the Bowl holds 18,000, some visitors at the end of the line did not quite get why a Bowl security guard was telling them their odds were "hopeless," figuring they'd make the cut even with upward of 800 people in line. They apparently did not take into account the fact that each individual was allowed four tickets, and that phone and online orders coming in concurrently with the box office distribution would grab most of the available seats.
Others were unhappy that the Philharmonic didn't place an age limit on who could receive four tickets; some under 18 -- indeed, some under 10 -- got wristbands.
But the fact that kids could also qualify for four tickets apiece made the extended Kim family very happy. Joon Kim, 13, his sister Michelle Kim, 18, and their cousin Brian Lee, 10, arrived at the Bowl at 7 a.m. with Joon and Michelle's mother, Jeung Hyun An, and managed to get wristbands with numbers ranging from 95 to 98. The whole family plays instruments, and Michelle is a clarinetist with the Glendale Youth Orchestra.
Said her mother (with Michelle translating from the Korean): "I am very interested in classical music, and all kinds of shows. It's a great opportunity.... It is an honor for us to attend this concert."
Frank Higginbotham of Glendale was among the next few in line after the 250 wristbands were distributed (Bowl officials later reported that the tickets ran out at 246 or 247). Bouncing his 3-year-old son, Gianni, on his shoulder, he said he came because his other son, Frankie, 4, was a Dudamel fan.
"I"m doing this for my son; he watched the '60 Minutes' TV show about Dudamel about a year ago, " Higginbotham said. "And then a couple of weeks later he saw your story in the Calendar section and started saying : 'Gustavo!' I took him to a kids' show at Disney Hall, but he wasn't really happy with that. He has curly hair and everything, like Gustavo."
-- Diane Haithman, Karen Wada and Juliette Funes
Photos: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times