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Violinist David Garrett: Breaking Down Barriers to Make Classical Music Accessible for Younger Generations

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Breaking down the traditional barriers of classical music and making it more accessible and attractive for a new generation is not only a mission of renowned violinist David Garrett, but his mantra. When he is not performing with the world's most famous orchestras, he is collaborating with artists from different genres. He's created innovative arrangements using songs from Metallica to Michael Jackson with his band, adding keyboard, guitar and drums to his world class talent at violin.

Known for his cross over work in bridging classical music with contemporary styles, David has been introducing young people to the classics and kindling enthusiasm for "reputedly serious music" in sold out concerts and chart topping CDs for years and hopes to continue to do so with his new album Rock Symphonies.

He is also the latest musician to come on board with Music Unites Classical Initiative, a program aimed at making classical music more accessible for younger audiences in addition to introducing classical music to under-served communities and schools. His desire to diminish the negative stigma of classical music sometimes felt by young audiences mirrors the goals of Music Unites.

"I think Music Unites is a wonderful project and it's exactly what I am all about -- collecting young audiences for something, especially when it comes to classical music, so it fit perfectly with what I am interested in," he says of working with the organization that serves to raise funds for music education in inner city schools. "I think music in general is important to young people. I don't exclude rock or pop or R&B. I think music education and love for all types of music is extremely important when growing up."

Born and raised in Germany, David began playing violin at the tender age of four and appeared with the Hamburg Philharmonics just six years later. By age 13 he became the youngest artist to be awarded an exclusive contract with the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft.

"Music always gave me a strength and balance in life and always took me out of my normal daily problems," he says of being a young musician. "Music is a wonderful way to compensate for those good and bad feelings. Classical music is a combination of everything we hear in pop culture as well. It's part of everything."

David first became interested in cross over music when he moved to New York to study at Julliard where he was one of Itzhak Perlman's first students.

I really wanted to connect to a lot of people and especially the dance and acting people at Julliard so I would mix classical music. I started doing improvisations on contemporary rock or pop tunes and it always went down very well with my fellow students. Basically I just decided that there is a wonderful opportunity there to connect those two worlds-on the one side classical, on the other side more contemporary and something people are used to. I would play Bach and then Black Eyed Peas or Nirvana or whatever was up and coming at that point and just mix it all together. It's a wonderful opportunity to branch out.

David's first cross over album Virtuoso received the ECHO Klassik 2008 award, and his next album Encore, released in October 2008 reached platinum status and was at the top of the US classical and classical-crossover charts for months. His next release, Classic Romance, focused exclusively on classical compositions. He is quick to point out though, the small amount of difference between traditional classical and today's more modern forms.

In Mozart's Turkish March and one in [Michael Jackson's] Smooth Criminal have almost the same harmonic progression. This goes to show that apart from instrumentalization, music has hardly changed at all over the past 250 years. We continue to work with the same material. In my eye, the Paganinis, Liszts and Chopins of the 19th century were the world's first rock stars. Great composers have always incorporated elements which were popular in their day and there is nothing reprehensible about that. On the contrary.

Due to his large audience culled from his earlier cross-over albums, Classic Romance saw record breaking sales and introduced his fans to a traditional side of his music.

My favorite audience is my generation, people between 20 and even younger. Kids these days are much more adventurous with their choices and exposed to so much more. They have the Internet there is the possibility of having every sort of musical direction at their disposal. Funny enough, my fans are a mixture of people who come from classical music and loving cross over music, or they come straight from pop and R&B. It's a wonderful opportunity to just enjoy music in general.