Our Story

1945 - Once upon a time

JM International (originally Jeunesses Musicales International) was founded on July 17th 1945, by Marcel Cuvelier (Belgium) and René Nicoly (France) in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium. Their aim was to unite the world's youth through music in the wake of the Second World War, a mission that we continue until this day.


JMI initially focused on presenting "good music" (classical music) to young audiences through concerts in the main concert halls and later through school concerts. The focus changed over time to also encompass young musicians through music camps, competitions and youth orchestras.

In the late 60's, JMI began to open up to other styles of music such as contemporary classical music, ethnic and traditional music, jazz, pop and rock. In doing so JMI became an international platform for youth and music worldwide, enabling young people to develop through music across all boundaries.

Dsc 0214

Pioneers in promoting youth music

JMI is a global pioneer in the establishment and promotion of youth music activities around the world. Over the years, through the financial and political support from governments, influential personalities, public and private institutions, JMI has been able to provide access to its music activities and programs to millions of children and youth of the world.

Annual Youth-Music Meetings

Some things in music happen serendipitously...
JMI is not one of those things. 

The growth and development of the international organisation has been achieved by working together, year after year, with vision, openness and dedication. Our two main network development meetings are the JMI Annual General Assembly and the JMI Joint Committees Meeting. These occasions are fundamental to how we work and why we work. The Annual General Assembly is the political direction of the JMI movement, deciding on strategies and long term development. The Joint Committees meeting is JMI's executional arm, bringing together our various program committees and organisational structures to work on the national and international development of JMI's programs. These bodies are supported throughout the year by the JMI Head Office, a dedicated team of passionate cultural professionals working to support and multiply the impact of our members.

1949 - The World in an Orchestra

The Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra (JMWO) was the organisation's first international program, bringing together young classical musicians from around the world annually to learn from the world's great conductors, as well as one another. Launched in 1949, by Igor Markievitch, it was not until 1969 that it was institutionalised by Gilles Lefebvre as the ‘Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra’. Around 10,000 young musicians have passed through the orchestra over the last 50 years, under the batons of prestigious and renowned maestros such as Zubin Mehta, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Dutoit, Yakov Kreizberg and Kurt Masur. In 1996 the orchestra was appointed as an UNESCO’ Artist For Peace in recognition of its humanitarian message. The orchestra was made up of young musicians from all corners of the globe and played for two sessions annually. The JMWO has toured over 30 countries and has enjoyed the patronage of the cities of: Montreal, Canada (1968-1985), Berlin, Germany (1986-2004) and Valencia, Spain (2005-2009).


1982 - Time to Imagine

Imagine is an international professional development and mobility platform for young musicians across all genres. Now present in 8 countries, Imagine's engine is a music competition where young musicians receive workshops, training and performance experience through local, regional and national rounds before arriving at the international final. The first ever Imagine took place in France in June 1982 under the name Music Ado at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris. This first edition involved 3 participating regions of France. Soon Imagine spread under various guises to Sweden (Musik Direct), Belgium (Music Live), Croatia and beyond. The various competitions came under one name in 2010, today know as the Imagine Music Experience.

1989 - Uniting Youth through Song

Following the success of the JMWO, the World Youth Choir was initiated by JMI in 1989 and has since gathered more than 1.000 singers from 70 countries in almost 40 sessions. The World Youth Choir has been awarded the title of UNESCO Artist for Peace (1996-1998), and performed at the Peace Nobel Prize Ceremony and Concert in Oslo (2011). The project today is run together with the European Choral Association and the International Federation for Choral Music.

World Youth Choir

1990 - Forays into Folk

1990 marks the first ever Ethno music camp held in Sweden. Ethno is Jeunesses Musicales International’s program for folk, world and traditional music. The program is aimed at young musicians (up to the age of 30) with a mission to revive and keep alive global cultural heritage amongst youth. Present today in over 40 countries, Ethno engages young people through series of annual international summer music camps, as well as workshops by working together with schools, conservatories and other groups of youth. Ethno provides a unique opportunity for young people from across the globe to come together and engage through music in a manner that is characterised by respect, generosity and openness.

2000 - JMI Opens to Associate Membership

Traditionally a network of national JMI chapters, the network opened up for Associate Members, organisations working with youth and music in specified fields or activities that complement the work of national JMI member sections.

Yam Awards

2008 - YAM is born!

YAM (YoungAudiences Music) is JMI's program for delivering live music encounters to kids and youth. Across our network we facilitate over 20,000 YAM concerts annually across over 20 countries. Although young audiences music development has always been at the foundation of what we do, the first combined program effort was the YAMawards in Turkey, 2008, an international award to promote and acknowledge the best productions for Young Audience. This event quickly developed into a YAMsession in 2012, an international conference packed with showcases, inspring talks and annual space for our members to share best practices and grow together.

2010 - Social Justice through Music

Initiated as a partnership with the World Bank, JMI took on the fight against global corruption with its Fair Play programme, an annual campaign for music videos for young musicians speaking out against injustice in their communities. IN 2012 a partnership was formed with Transparency International to bring the Fair Play winners to connect, perform and receive additional training and support at the biannual International Anti-Corruption Conference, the world's largest anti-corruption conference.

Fair Play

JMI brings the future sound of Europe to YO!Fest and EYE!

Europe's largest political youth festival may have started out with a few hundred people on the steps of Maalbeek park in Brussels but today is held annually outside the Brussels and Strasburg Parliaments, bringing thousands of young people together to stand up for youth rights and get down to great music from Europe's best-emerging bands. It is a true celebration of young people's engagement in their own political destinies! Since 2010, JMI partners up with the European Youth Forum and the European Parliament to discover and give a platform to the future sound of Europe!

2013 - JMI teams up with the ILO to fight Child Labour

The global Music Against Child Labour Initiative was launched in 2013 and brings together key partners in the world of music - famous conductors, musicians, musicians' organisations and music education bodies - and the ILO, through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour. Once a year we call on musicians to dedicate a concert between the 12th of May and 12th of June (World Day Against Child Labour) to the fight. Through the campaign musicians are also asked to compose songs for the cause, helping spread the message beyond the politcal context.

2015 - New Ways in Classical Music

In 2015, JMI embarked on a new journey, a journey to reflect on the classical music and youth today. A consultative process with young musicians from around the world. Named enCORE Classical, JMI has developed a series of an annual events that bring young classical musicians together from our different sections to share, learn, inspire and be inspired. At enCORE they work on new ways in classical music and develop cross-border projects and programs to connect young people through music.

244033920 10159697993078245 386574045345649413 N

2020 - Celebrate with us our 75th birthday

In 2020 JMI celebrated its 75th birthday! Originating as a peace movement exploring the socio-cultural impact of music on young people and children, the way we do things may have changed but why we do them sure has not! JMI put together a host of special Anniversary activities that took place in 2020 and 2021. The highlight of the celebrations took place on the 30th of September 2021, where JMI members and special guests were invited to join us at the Maison de la Poste in order to celebrate 75 years of Jeunesses Musicales International with a gala concert by the Antwerpen Camerata featuring 3 new works composed by the winners the JMI 75 Years Young Composers Competition.