‘Declassified’ eliminates snobbery from classical music

Author, Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch.
Lorene Theodora Photography

Violinist Arianna Warsaw Fan-Rauch wants you 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 that it doesn’t have to be that way. This is the inspiration behind his first book, Declassified: A Discreet Guide to the Tense World of Classical Music.

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

Declassified recounts his musical journey, and each chapter mixes the personal, the professional and the historical. She aims to demystify classical music for a mainstream audience, breaking down everything from the seven major compositional periods to concert etiquette, like when to clap and when not to. It also gives an intimate behind-the-scenes look into the life of a classical musician. His tone is irreverent and approachable.


“Mozart wasn’t a snob, but his music is portrayed in movies in a very elite way. Most people don’t know he wrote poop poems,” she said.

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

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

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

She also pointed out that she was seeing a long-awaited opening up of classical music to more diversity, quoting J’nai Bridges, the American mezzo-soprano who was headed for a professional basketball career before becoming a famous opera singer.

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

“I fell in love with Aspen. The Aspen Music Festival experience was so accessible and warm. There was no such line drawn between the audience and the performer. It’s a really special, utopian place,” she said.

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