Former St. Louisan Dean Schramm’s new film playing this week at Frontenac Cinema

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Bill Motchan, Special For The Jewish Light

Former St. Louisan Dean Schramm, who celebrated his bar mitzvah at United Hebrew Congregation, returned home last week for the opening of a film he produced, entitled “Viva Maestro!” at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema. The documentary follows Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic and Paris Opera.

When conductor Dudamel‘s international tours are canceled by deadly protests across his native Venezuela and he publicly criticizes the Maduro regime in the media, one of the world’s finest musicians faced a daunting set of challenges — from his commitment to the mentor who changed his life, to friends and musicians he’s led since his teens, and to his belief in art’s transformative capacity.

This documentary follows Dudamel around the world as he responds to unexpected and imposing obstacles with stirring music-making that celebrates the power of art to renew and unite.

The Jewish Light talked to Schramm about the film and his journey from Ladue Horton Watkins High School student to Hollywood.

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When you were growing up here and went to movies at Plaza Frontenac, did you ever think you might someday be back with your own film?

No, but I was in a quartet in high school. We used to play there every holiday season. So to come back there with not only a film that I produced, but a film about music is really wonderful.

You played violin as a high school student. Why did you choose such a difficult instrument?

At Reed Elementary School, there was a music program led by Lois Percival and Marilyn Humiston. And in the fourth grade, they played in a trio for the students, and I thought the violin sounded really wonderful. I came home and I asked my parents if I could play. What I didn’t know was that my father, who was a lawyer, had been a very fine violinist growing up in St. Louis.

How receptive was Gustavo Dudamel to having a camera documenting his work?

He was very generous with both his time and his tolerance for our cameras. When we shot the scenes of the orchestra rehearsals and concerts and especially the rehearsals, we had multiple cameras running.

What has the Maestro’s response been to your film?

He’s been very supportive and likes it very much. His whole DNA is about spreading the message of the transformative power of music.

Do you feel like music is a great equalizer, whether you’re a student in Ladue or Venezuela, that it’s important for kids to have an opportunity to play?

Absolutely. I feel so strongly about it that when I came to Los Angeles, I started a string program in the L.A. Best After School program, which serves 28,000 children every day in underserved communities.


Ticket information, showtimes, and additional information on Dean Schramm’s Q&A event after the April 23 showing of “Viva Maestro!” are available here.