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Philippe Jaroussky Begins New Effort to Promote Classical Music

The Académie Musicale Philippe Jaroussky opened a few months ago in the outskirts of Paris. Inspired by larger organizations worldwide such as the Démos project in France and El Sistema in Venezuela, Jaroussky hopes to change the demographic of classical music.

In a 2015 study, the French Association of Orchestras discovered that their average audience member is 54 and likely an executive or manager. Many younger musicians, like Jaroussky, are searching for ways to bring classical music to the younger generations.

In his quest to fulfill this mission, the Académie offers free weekly lessons to children of working class or immigrant families. They get to choose between piano, violin, or cello, and receive an instrument for the three years they spend as part of the program. Twenty-three children performed recently in their first performance, which was also many of their parents’ and guardians’ first classical performance as an audience member.

 Photo: Julien Mignot for the New York Times

Photo: Julien Mignot for the New York Times

El Sistema in Venezuela began with similar intentions. It was started in the ‘70s as a government program to address the country’s widespread poverty and gang violence issues. By involving more children and young people in music, they hoped to draw them into the music world and off of the dangerous streets, instilling in them the values of commitment and community that come from music ensembles.

 Photo: pbs.org

Photo: pbs.org

However, as political tensions have grown in the country, some clouds have gathered around El Sistema’s reputation. Due to the program’s hundreds of teaching locations, there are hundreds of thousands of program alumni and participants. Out of those numbers, there have been reports of members being involved in anti-government protests and dissatisfaction with the program’s success story, conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

The similar-in-scale French program Démos was founded in 2010 and seems to have maintained an untarnished reputation. Hopefully, as famous countertenor Philippe Jaroussky enters the scene, he will similarly have clean success in promoting classical music to France’s youth.