In classroom orchestras, children choose their own instrument on their first day of school and learn from local music school teachers every week, fostering curiosity and respect. Teachers and school administrators become project leaders, responsible not only for the quality of kids’ educational experience, but also for the mobilization of other stakeholders, including music schools and municipalities. Aware of the administrative maze people often have to overcome, Jean-Claude is devoting a three-person team to support teachers’ daily efforts through online and offline assistance.
Jean-Claude also recognizes the importance of engaging parents who are traditionally uninvolved in school activities or only hear from teachers in response to behavioral and academic problems. To overcome parents’ reluctance to the launch of orchestras, Jean-Claude ensures that local orchestras perform in four public concerts every year, building parents’ confidence and pride in their children’s skills. These parents become the most fervent supporters of the orchestras.
Additionally, Jean-Claude has made public concerts mandatory to engage municipalities and local governments, and provide publicity to the local administration. This facilitates access to local government funding and ensure that culture, education and social affair budgets are devoted to orchestras, both to buy instrument parks and to devote some of the local music school’s budget to in-school teaching time.
The positive impacts of Jean-Claude’s classroom orchestras have been widespread, with studies finding that on average, each participating students’ grade point average increases between five and ten percent every year in every subject. In addition to all participating students going on to high school, they also tend to be more punctual, focused, self-confident and pro-active. These benefits extend beyond educational outcomes, as it has also led to reductions in youth violence, which tends to be a major problem in Priority Education Zones schools.
To facilitate and accelerate the spread of classroom orchestras across the country, Jean-Claude created in 2008 Orchestres A l’Ecole, a citizen organization that supports the orchestra network and controls the quality of its members. With the support of his team, he is mobilizing private and public actors at the national level to guarantee sustainable funding and structural administrative support.
Turning the decreasing musical practice in France into an opportunity, Jean-Claude has convinced the National Instrument Makers’ Union that he is creating tomorrow’s market and that they should invest in the development of the orchestras to guarantee that they have customers tomorrow. To date, the Union covers most of the structural costs of OAE, i.e., the salaries of two of their staff. Entrepreneurial members of the Union have also become key ambassadors who promote the spread of orchestras in regions across France.
Recognizing that full local funding cannot always be raised in disadvantaged areas, Jean-Claude has built an emergency fund by reaching across to the business sector and raised funds from Vivendi, from the founder of AXA insurance and other large companies. He is also forming a strategic partnership with AXA to leverage the largest French insurance company’s national network of managers and retirees to support local orchestras.
To guarantee the support of Académies in all regions of France, and to facilitate access to public funding both for OAE’s national office and for local school orchestras, Jean-Claude is also working at the national level with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture. A national convention will be signed with the Ministries of Education and Culture in June 2009.
To inspire and convince all stakeholders to take part in the adventure and stay engaged over time, Jean-Claude ensures that local concerts get publicity and that orchestras are strategically present and playing at major public events, including National Music Day, Education and Music Fairs, and public ceremonies. The publicity has garnered much interest in his program, with the number of classroom orchestras growing from 150 in 2007 to 350 at the start of the 2008/2009 school year. This success has also fostered interest abroad, as social entrepreneurs in South Africa and Belgium have already contacted Jean-Claude to replicate his model.