With eight million subscribers, Aurélien Froissart, station pianist on the path to success

With eight million subscribers, Aurélien Froissart, station pianist on the path to success
With eight million subscribers, Aurélien Froissart, station pianist on the path to success

PORTRAIT – A professional in improvisation. The 28-year-old Parisian records piano videos in train stations which have accumulated several million views.

He has neither suitcase nor ticket. Gare de Lyon, he comes to play the piano. Passers-by stop. The phone is filming. The assembly is effective. The video goes viral. Followed by eight million people on social networks (2.7 million on Instagram, 3.4 million on Tiktok and 2.1 million on YouTube), Aurélien Froissart has chosen public places as his stage since 2022.

In an 18th century cafée district of the capital, the Parisian arrives on the terrace a little late. Aurélien Froissart enthusiastically recounts his love story with the piano and classical music. “When people asked me at school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote down painter, adventurer, precious stone researcher, etc..” At the age of 12, he discovered THE Blues Brothers, the John Landis film released in 1980 and abandons the list of fifteen professions he wants to pursue, keeping only that of pianist. “My little brother and I were fans of the film, it was a revelation for both of us”, he declares. Raphaël, his younger brother, started with the trombone before playing the clarinet. “He also has his own videos”explains his big brother.

After having “begged” his parents “to learn to play like Ray Charles”, he joined the Racine high school in Paris, in a class with flexible schedules. Its integration was not easy: “I was a bit of an outsider because I had only started playing the piano at the age of twelve while all the other students had been playing since they were children.” Very shy, the high school student passed his baccalaureate at sixteen: “I was ahead, I skipped CE1 because I knew how to read”he laughs.

The 28-year-old pianist monopolizes pianos in train stations but also in shopping centers.
Aurélien Froissart

Faithful to his first love

He entered the Paris National Conservatory in the piano section for three years. And at the end of the course he drops everything. “I didn’t really like the career path, I didn’t identify with it. I neither wanted to be a teacher nor to take part in competitions to be recognized”he admits.

Aurélien finished his philosophy degree at the Sorbonne. What makes him tick? “The metaphysics of the Middle Ages”. Far from the piano, he considers himself cerebral. He asks himself a lot of questions. Often abstract. During the health crisis, he went into exile in Thailand for a year. Between his travels in the country and his Thai boxing lessons, he considers the piano as a professional path. “I listened to a lot of classical music since I was alone in Asia and I realized that I was not only capable of being a listener but that I could play”, he smiles. Aurélien returned to France at the age of 26 and returned to the keyboard, not without difficulty: “I had lost my level. […] In the classical world, I was seen as the guy who had stopped, who had given up on the piano.

The young man hangs on and regains his level before giving a few lessons to earn money until the discovery of Tiktok. “I had friends who were in several fields and who had started on social networks and it worked.” In his branch? “No professionals, only amateurs, and a beginner who already played in stations.” In short, the idea born, “the outsider” resurfaced. “I no longer had the contacts to go on stage”, he justifies. In 2022, he launched on social networks. “I try several concepts like tutorials and then ultimately it’s the more spontaneous videos that work best.” In December 2023, Aurélien Froissart won the record for the third most viewed video on Instagram, achieving more than 300 million views while playing the Gare de Lyon piano with the young violinist Dina Mourard.

In each video, the same staging: he sits in front of the piano, installs his two phones on either side of the instrument to film the piece and begins to play. “I find it so much more human than a concert hall. We feel the connections between travelers in transit, gathered there somewhat by chance. And above all, we see in real time whether we like it or not. he says enthusiastically.

Having become a professional in improvisation, he has now set up his small business. On each video, there are five to six people working for him. The end result is nothing but suspense and happenings. He adds large arrows to the montage predicting a reaction in the audience but also writings announcing what happens next. “I told myself that if there are things by chance that work well, I’m going to keep it that way on purpose but make them better.” Planning duos allows “to be harmonious”. The pianist invites professional musicians to his shoots. He remembers : “Once I was with a singer and for ten minutes no one paid attention. It hurt too much and she wanted to stop. I told him it was normal. When you play in a train station, you have to accept that people are in a hurry and aren’t going to stop, but maybe you play for another minute and then you create something and everyone stops. It’s super unpredictable.”

For security reasons, the SNCF is now informed of these filmings by Aurélien. Particularly since the event with star dancer Victoria Dauberville. Last March, during their duet, security intervened at the very end of their musical exchange because too large a crowd had formed. All in a cordial atmosphere.

And is he thinking of a return to a classic path? Even if he recognizes that creating content can discredit him in the professional world, he is currently trying to make an album but “classical music labels are cautious about social networks.” He notices that “it is the best-known pianists who are the most open-minded. The young generation of the conservatory, who does not yet have a career, is very dogmatic. Regardless, his community should follow him to his next destination.

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