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Danish City Wants To Teach All Children
To Play an Instrument and Sing

By Michelle Rasmussen
August 2017

National Archives
A class in violin instruction under the WPA Federal Music Project in New York City.

COPENHAGEN, Aug. 21, 2017 (Schiller Institute) -- The DR danish national television news (both TV and homepage) reported that in Hjoerring, a city of 65,000 inhabitants in northern Denmark, "... all children will learn to play an instrument. In kindergarden, they will learn to play the violin. Afterwards, until and including the 5th grade, they will learn to play different instruments, sing in a choir, and also play in orchestras." 

During the upcoming school year 1085 children will be in the program, and the vision is that all children will be included.  The music school has bought several hundred violins and other orchestral instruments.

Christian Larsen, the director of Hjoerring's Music School said, "We are doing it because it is fun for the children, and because especially at that age, there is a great potential to develop the brain, and when you play music, you develop cognitively, motorically and emotionally." 

During a background discussion with The Schiller Institute, Christian Larsen also added socially. The idea started in 2010 with a grassroots wish to replicate a danish version of Venezuela's El Sistema mass orchestra movement. The principles of the danish version were that it should be free, open to all children, practice several times a week, focus on musical expression rather than technique, stress the community rather than the individual, and utilize "peer to peer" children teaching children, in addition to adult teachers. The program in Hjoerring started in 2011 with one orchestra.

The costs of the current program are split between the school system and the music school. The cooperation is based on mutual value-creation, and didn’t depend on "new money" in the system, but simply required a change in mind-set. They hope that it will become a model for other cities to adopt. 

Since the report on national news, there has been a lot of positive feedback, and there are also different kinds of grassroots music programs in several other Danish cities.

Christian Larsen stressed that the music program develops the childrens' ability to think creatively, without knowing what is to be done beforehand -- to think, without already having been told the answers. 

A mother interviewed in the DR article was also excited about her child participating in classical music, which not many in her generation were exposed to.