New mission: David France is leaving the island to embark on a programme that teaches music to chilldren who live below the poverty line. He says it is one of the most successful music education programmes of its kind. *Photo supplied
New mission: David France is leaving the island to embark on a programme that teaches music to chilldren who live below the poverty line. He says it is one of the most successful music education programmes of its kind. *Photo supplied

Violinist and educator David France is one of ten people worldwide chosen to take part in one of the most successful music education projects of its kind.

He is leaving his post at the Bermuda School of Music to join the Abreu Fellows Programme that has produced over 150 youth orchestras in Venezuela serving children who predominantly live below the poverty line.

The programme was set up 30 years ago by Maestro José Antonio Abreu initially bringing together 11 young people to learn to play music.

In 2009, he used the money he received from winning the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Prize to fund ten people per year to learn the teaching programme and spread it throughout the world. It has since mushroomed into the programme it is today which continues to grow year after year.

As of July, France will embark on the fully funded, year-long programme to learn the method Abreu created. Half of the programme takes place in Boston and the other half in Venezuela.

Once he completes the programme, he intends on teaching future generations and spreading the idea to the rest of the world including, he hopes, Bermuda.

France, originally from Conneticut, has decided that he has found his vocation.

“I think this is what I want to do with my life. The new programme exists to spread this idea beyond Venezuela and they want us ten people to take this idea to the world.

“My class is the 30th that it exists in Venezuela. Their programme is known as El Sistema which is known as one of the most inspirational music programmes in the world. Three thousand kids in Venezuela, all over the country are studying music, six days a week, three to four hours a day after school and they are producing the best youth symphonies in the world. Their main conductor (Gustavo Dudamel) is now known the best young conductor in the world and he is conducting the orchestra in Los Angeles. People can’t believe what is happening in Venezuela.

“What is more interesting is that 70 per cent of the children are from the slums of Venezuela. They are taking them and turning them into world class orchestras.”

While France intends on taking the teaching programme around the world, he said he would love to bring his newly learned skills back to Bermuda at some point in the future. He said that as he learned about the programme he would be letting the community here know about his progress.

“Part of the coursework is how to raise funds. Because I have been in Bermuda for so long if anyone in Bermuda is willing to fully fund this kind of a programme then I will take the information I have learned in the programme and bring it back to Bermuda.”

Through his seven years as a music teacher at the Bermuda School of Music and through partner outreach programmes at low-income schools, France has encouraged some 300 children to study violin in Bermuda.

While at the school he prepared island students for two international tours, founded the preparatory orchestra Opus One, and co-founded the summer music festival Bravo! Bermuda. He has performed with numerous orchestras including the Wichita Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Sphinx Symphony. In 2009 he was selected via an online audition to be one of the Concertmasters of the first ever Youtube Symphony which performed to a sold out audience at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

He has worked across genres having collaborated with artists including Kenny Rogers, John Legend and Smokey Robinson.