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Orchestra group wants more French kids to learn instruments

media Pupils from Sisley College's orchestra class performing in one of the 50 concerts they gave during their three years together © Thomas Marié

A French association is helping set up orchestras for disadvantaged kids in towns and rural areas. And the results are striking. Funded by private sponsors and local government, Orchestre à l'école has created 830 orchestras in 500 schools across the country.

Less than five per cent of children in France learn to play a musical instrument at school or in a conservatoire. It’s one of the lowest rates in all of Europe.

And yet playing in an orchestra can have a big impact on a child's school performance overall.

Building on this idea, the French association Orchestre à l’école helps create school orchestras, mainly in underprivileged and rural areas.

Over the last ten years, it has created 830 orchestras nationwide, in which 22,000 children take part.

Each orchestra class lasts for three years. The association provides pupils with their own instruments and organises professional tuition within school hours. Funding comes from private sponsorship and local government.

Marianne Blayau, who heads the association, says they were initially spurned by the French Ministry of Education, but have finally won its support this year.

She hopes that will speed up their goal of getting an orchestra in every one of France’s 55,000 primary and lower-secondary schools.

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