A Taste for Classical Music

Strong emotions, large works, and great composers: everything is bigger and stronger in classical music. Still, schools were reluctant to ask for classical school concerts in the Danish school concert programme under Levende Musik i Skolen - LMS (Live Music in Schools). This development LMS set out to reverse with the project Smag for Klassisk (A Taste for Classical Music). The project aim is to increase enthusiasm for classical music in young audiences.
13 Jan, 2023

A Taste for Classical Music

By Christina Blangstrup Dahl

Since 2019, Levende Musik i Skolen - LMS has been the driving force behind a national effort to increase interest in classical school concerts for children all over Denmark. LMS has collaborated with symphony orchestras, smaller ensembles, opera houses, conservatories and music schools from all over Denmark in the “Smag for Klassisk” project to bring classical music to a larger young audience. "The aim of the project has been to strengthen classical music as a genre in our concert catalogue, work with possible prejudice in schools and among musicians and create a strong network for capacity building among classical players in Denmark", says project manager Dorthe Damgaard. We wanted to bring the entire food chain into play in order to reach the world's most important audience: children and young people.

Children are easily excited when listening to live music.

“LMS has 30 years of experience in organizing school concerts, and our experience shows that children of all ages can be excited and moved by concerts of all genres when they experience authentic musicians live, who communicate well and perform professionally”, says the Director of LMS Gitte Abildtrup Møller. Despite this, classical music is often perceived as more difficult to listen to and teach compared to other musical genres in the Danish elementary school. This, however, is often an impression formed by the adults and not by the children.

“We experience reluctance among many music teachers in approaching classical music in the classroom," says Dorthe Damgaard. A survey among LMS contacts at schools across the country revealed that a little less than 50% believe that classical music is difficult to introduce to students compared to other genres. As a schoolteacher puts it: "It is often a genre that neither students nor teachers listen to, so it is difficult to relate to the music - and difficult for the teacher to explain the music to the students." At least this is the experience among many Danish schoolteachers.

But the primary school plays a central role in getting the music out to the children - also to those who do not have the resources to seek it out themselves.

Project outcomes

Magic classical concerts

Smag for Klassisk has worked intensively in creating a series of excellent classical productions (one of which was nominated for a YAMaward in 2022) that have been presented at the annual LMS festival/showcase, where LMS school contacts meet to get an overview of the current concert catalogue. Similarly, a number of schools that have previously avoided classical concerts have been offered an additional “Smag for Klassisk concert” to allow them the opportunity to experience what a great classical school concert has to offer: “It has been a great success at our school and a bit of an eye opener. The musicians really met and saw the children while performing at a high level. There was room for both the children’s reactions and their questions”, says Anders Askov, school teacher, Denmark.

The school teachers must be equipped for the task Classical music should be accessible – and easy to convey to school teachers. "That's why our project is not just about getting more concerts into schools, but also about equipping the school teachers with the right tools to introduce classical music in class," says Dorthe Damgaard. This happens not least by creating good teaching materials to accompany the concert.

Aside from teaching materials produced individually to each concert (as is the procedure for all LMS school concert productions), Smag for klassisk has created general materials that can be used by all schools, but also by symphony orchestras and ensembles involved in the project, as preparation for their school concerts. Additionally, in collaboration with the Danish Royal Theatre, Smag for Klassisk has published a large digital teaching material with videos and creative assignments that all schools in Denmark can access freely.

Successful producer network

Another success story in the project has been the establishment of a national classical producer network which consists of people working with outreach concerts for schools in symphony orchestras, opera houses and larger ensembles. LMS and Smag for Klassisk are in charge of coordinating several annual meetings where the network meets to experience each other’s concerts, share ideas and inspiration and go in-depth with various aspects of the school concert. The content of the network activities is inspired by the international collaboration that exists in the YAM network. At the beginning of the project, only a few people registered for the network activities, but since then most of the network members attend. In other words, a solid collaboration has been established that is highly valued by the participants: Nina Ulf Jørgensen from Ensemble Storstrøm says: "It's great to have collegial and professional sparring. The value of not being alone in an important task is great.” Similarly, the network members were invited to join the Danish LMS delegation that went to Brugge for the 2022 YAMsession.

If you want to learn more about the outcome of the Smag for Klassisk project, please contact Dorthe Damgaard at dorthe@lms.dk

Smag for Klassisk is supported by the Obel Family Foundation and the Spar Nord Foundation.

© Photos: Christian Brandt.


Every year Levende Musik i Skolen sends approximately 140 music groups to Danish primary schools – More than 3,000 concerts for more than 300,000 happy children each year. Approximately one-fifth of the concerts are classical. LMS also provides producer assistance and makes teaching material for schools. The goal of the many school concerts is to expand Danish children's musical horizons through good experiences and to give music education a boost through professional, live music and teaching material. Ultimately, this helps to ensure a continued broad musical life in Denmark.

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