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Music learning in conservatories is a socially selective organized children’s leisure activity, but the mechanisms through which this selectivity works are still to be understood. This study is based on a field research conducted among upper-class families of a gentrified neighborhood in a Paris suburb municipality and on a statistical analysis of the municipal music academy’s administrative files. We show that music learning is a socially and locally distinctive leisure activity that participates in a process of social segregation and is steered by the norms of legitimacy of formal music. Indeed, the wish of being a member of the music academy appears as decisive as the desire of playing music. The music academy is a sought-after institution because of its serious and formal pedagogy, and it is seen as fostering the formation of educational aptitudes. Moreover, music learning is sometimes directly included in schooling strategies with the aim of reaching selective schools or classes early on, at the middle school level. All these elements suggest that the growing schooling competition in the Paris area has an effect on the way in which families invest in children’s leisure activities.


  • Educational styles
  • children’s leisure activities
  • school inequalities
  • music
Lucas Tranchant
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