‘Declassified’ takes the snobbery out of classical music

Sarah Girgis
The Aspen Times
"Declassified" by Arianna Warsaw Fan-Rauch
Courtesy Photo

Violinist Arianna Warsaw Fan-Rauch wants to change your mind about classical music. She knows you think it’s inherently snobbish, elitist and out of reach for the average person, and she agrees. But, she also knows it doesn’t have to be that way. This is the inspiration behind her first book, Declassified: A Low-Key Guide to the High-Strung World of Classical Music.

“I want to dispel elitist stereotypes around classical music and create a point of entry for people who may be interested in the genre but may be uncomfortable jumping in. I want to give people a view into the human side of this music and the musicians; it’s not a monolith that you put up on a pedestal in a museum,” Fan-Rauch said.

Declassified chronicles her musical journey, and each chapter intertwines the personal, professional and historical. She aims to demystify classical music for a mainstream audience, breaking everything down from the seven main compositional periods to concert-going etiquette, such as when to clap and when not to. She also gives an intimate, behind-the-scenes view of the life of a classical musician. Her tone is irreverent and approachable.


“Mozart was not a snob, but his music is depicted in movies in a very elitist way. Most people don’t know he wrote poems about poop,” she said.

Fan-Rauch’s love of music started early. Her father was a pianist, and, as a toddler, she would sneak in and lie under his piano while he was practicing. She acknowledges that because she had access to classical music at such a young age, she felt somehow entitled to pursue it as a career — a privilege most people don’t have. She began playing violin at a young age and eventually earned a bachelor degree and master of music from the Juilliard School, at which time she spent a summer as a resident of the Aspen Music Festival. She went on to perform in top venues like the Boston Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall.

What happens after that is the arc of the book, so she’s reluctant to give anything else away.

But, she urges all music lovers to explore classical music “in whatever way they feel comfortable,” she said. “There is so much beauty and excitement in the repertoire to be explored without betraying who they are.”

She also stressed that she is seeing a long-overdue opening of classical music to more diversity, citing J’nai Bridges, the American mezzo-soprano who was headed towards a professional basketball career before becoming a celebrated opera singer.

Fan-Rauch will be appearing in Aspen Oct. 24 for an author event at Explore Bookstore. She is excited to return with her husband and children — 12 years after spending the summer here as a student — and introduce them to a place she remembers fondly.

“I fell in love with Aspen. The Aspen Music Festival experience was so approachable and warm. There wasn’t such a line drawn between audience and performer. It’s a really special, utopian place,” she said.

If you go…

What:Ariana Warsaw Fan-Rauch
When: Oct.24 4:30pm
Where: Explore Bookstore, Aspen
More info:

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