The Démos youth orchestra

Démos is an experimental project that teaches orchestra to children between the ages of 7 and 12 who live in sensitive areas of the city, i.e. neighbourhoods classified under the French government’s “politique de la ville” programme.

Orchestre DémosDR

Démos (Dispositif d'éducation musicale et orchestrale à vocation sociale - Socially-oriented musical and orchestral education system) is a music-based project aimed at cultural democratisation. The philosophy behind Démos is to allow children to play music in an orchestra context, and to encourage their access to the classical repertory. The project is for children from sensitive (“politique de la ville”) neighbourhoods, or rural territories far from places of musical practice.

To better support the children, Démos develops a close partnership with the social structures in each local area. Experts from the social sector and musicians join forces, combining their teaching skills and musical experience to form an effective and complementary educational team.

Collective education is at the core of the project, combining artistic education with learning to “live together”. While developing the way they see and relate to others, the children also learn responsibility through intensive musical practice: each child attends four hours of collective classes per week and is entrusted with an instrument for which they are responsible for the duration of their participation in the project.

The Démos project has been developed in two three-year phases:

  • Phase I, from January 2010 to June 2012, coordinated by the La Villette Site Prevention Association (APSV), involving 450 children in the Greater Paris area. After these three years of experimentation, half of the children entered a music conservatory and 60 others continued within the Démos framework, with an "advanced orchestra", for example.
  • Phase II, September 2012 to June 2015, sponsored by the Cité de la musique, with support from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Urban Affairs, involving 800 children. Half of the children live within Greater Paris and have come to the project thanks to the participation of local authorities (such as the Regional Council, the General Councils of Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine, and a number of municipalities), Child Benefits Offices (CAF), and patrons (Société Générale Musical Patronage and the EDF, SNCF and EHA Foundations). The départements of Isère and Aisne have also joined the project, in partnership with the Isère General Council, Agence Iséroise de Diffusion Artistique (Isère Agency for Artistic Distribution), Aisne General Council and ADAMA (Association pour le Développement des Activités Musicales dans l’Aisne – Association for the Development of Musical Activities in Aisne).

This second phase of the Démos project has culminated in June 2015 with the gathering of all 800 children for a special weekend on their behalf at the new Philharmonie de Paris facilities.

The Démos project is funded by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, Acsé (Agence pour la cohesion sociale et l’égalité des chances – Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities), the local authorities and the Caisses d’allocations familiales (Child Benefits Offices). The project also receives support from:
Société Générale Musical Patronage (Primary Patron), SNCF Company Foundation (Major Patron), EDF Company Foundation (Major Patron), 
EHA Foundation,
 Friends of the Cité de la musique / Salle Pleyel.

As of 2014, Lilian Thuram is the sponsor of the Démos project.