If there’s anything a music lover or anyone who enjoys seeing youth at their best should do before you die is see the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.

You can tell this ain’t no “drop me off at lessons/rehearsal” cultural exposure exercise. Ranging from ages 12 to 26, they are a 200 member force to be reckoned with under the baton and music direction of Gustavo Dudamel. Dudamel introduced himself with a story of his first trip to D.C. as a 12-year-old violinist with the orchestra. There’s no question when you watch Dudamel conduct that he really LOVES music and LOVES his work. One musical movement becomes a major physical workout.

The orchestra was founded by Jose Antonio Abreu who set himself on a mission of placing instruments in the hands of Venezuelans to rescue them from poverty and to also give them an education.

So far, the orchestra has performed in the U.S. without a peep of politics clouding their visits. Their tour and the Washington Performing Arts Society’s presentation is being sponsored by CITCO Petroleum, the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and a Dr. Paul G. Stern.

Tickets for last night’s concert were sold out, but they opened the afternoon rehearsal to the public where they fine tuned Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” for the evening performance. This is an ambitious composition for a youth orchestra.

In the fall, Dudamel will begin his tenure as music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

What more can I say? I’m just all ears.