“Music is a wonderful tool for personal development and inclusion” Marianne Blayau

For the special event of the “Fête de la Musique”, today Orchestre à l’École is receiving the “Grand Prix for access to culture” from the Charles Defforey Foundation. We interview today Marianne Blayau, Managing Director of the association she founded in 2008, and a member of the Board of Directors of the 5 Senses for Kids Foundation.

In a few words, what does music mean to you?

Music has always been a big part of my life. Like a lot of people, it’s been with me at all sorts of times, from the happiest to the most difficult. We listen to music, we sing, we dance to celebrate, to relax, to concentrate, to remember, to escape… Music is good for our heads and our hearts.

How did your commitment to giving children access to music come about?

I entered the world of music by working for a jazz label (RDV Records). At the same time, I got involved with the Art Nuances Culture association, for which I organised 4 editions of Bercy Musique, Jardin d’Eveil, an event designed to help as many people as possible discover musical instruments. I saw the children plucking the strings, blowing the trumpets and banging the tambourines. These are moments of joy and pleasure that appeal to all the senses: hearing of course, but also sight, touch… It was there that I met the teams at the Chambre Syndicale de la Facture instrumentale, which I joined in 2005. I was in charge of structuring the Orchestre à l’École scheme, which had been set up a few years earlier, in 1999. I certainly had an idea of the impact that music could have on children’s lives, but I never imagined the benefits.

What impact does music have on learning?

Everyone knows the effect of music on well-being: music helps children to deal with their emotions, to express them and to manage them. And feeling good about yourself and others in a group is essential for learning. We also often talk about cultural openness: music initiation at nursery school and artistic and cultural education at school of course enable children to discover new worlds and styles of music other than those they listen to at home or with their friends. All this is essential, but in reality, the benefits are even greater. And it has been scientifically proven, particularly in terms of cognitive and sensorimotor development, memory, concentration and abstract reasoning. Music helps children of all ages to develop.

And children always enjoy learning..

Yes, and that’s essential! As we know, young children learn by playing. And in fact, throughout life, we learn best when we enjoy ourselves. There’s a story about a child I really like, a pupil from the Sarthe region who once told us: “For me, music is still a pleasure, it’s away from all the work”. In reality, it is work, it is demanding, sometimes even difficult. But the child or young person invests themselves fully because it’s work that produces a perceptible effect. An investment that has meaning and engages the senses!

What is the current status of the Orchestre à l’École scheme?

Its development has exceeded all our expectations! You have to realise that, in the beginning, things weren’t always easy, because we rejected the idea of imposing a vertical, uniform system on all schools and all regions, without taking account of their specific characteristics. Our approach, which was totally innovative at the time, has proved its worth. The recipe? By bringing together, in each region, a wide range of public and private players (schools, music schools, local authorities, instrument makers, local associations, etc.) to achieve a common goal: the development of children. Since its creation, the scheme has already benefited more than 155,000 children. Present in every department of France, with more than 1,500 active orchestras, it is the leading national association-based scheme for artistic and cultural education in the field of instrumental playing. Today, we are supported by the State, through a partnership agreement signed with the Ministries of Culture, National Education and Territorial Cohesion. We still have a long way to go: in France, only 5% of children learn to play an instrument. My dream is that one day every child will have the opportunity and the chance to discover playing an instrument.

Why are you also involved with the 5 senses for kids Foundation?

Music offers real multi-sensory experiences. Every day I see evidence of the benefits of multi-sensoriality in children’s development.

This naturally led me to work with 5 Senses for kids Foundation. Although most of my time and energy is devoted to children and teenagers at school, I’m well aware of the importance of the first 1,000 days of life.

Even before school, young children can take advantage of the many benefits of music to enjoy moments of sharing and joy, to discover the world, to socialise, to prepare for learning… They can listen to and even sing different genres, nursery rhymes from different countries, they can touch and play with instruments. In fact, music occupies a central place in the range of multicultural activities recommended to parents and educators.

I am therefore convinced of the importance of working with 5 Senses for kids Foundation to raise awareness among families, educators and decision-makers, as well as organising educational, cultural, social and scientific activities that contribute to the development of children by promoting multi-sensoriality as a fundamental basis for their development and their openness to the world.