What can a school district do with all its hopelessly broken musical instruments?
Here's one option: collect all the instruments and then ask a Pulitzer and Grammy award-winning composer to write a symphony for them. Post all the instruments online for adoption, raise money, fix the instruments and put them back in the hands of school children.
That's what's happening in Philadelphia this week, with the world premiere performance Sunday of David Lang's "Symphony for a Broken Orchestra" at the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia. Four hundred musicians -- including musicians from the community, the Philadelphia public schools, the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Boyer College of Music & Dance, and the Curtis Institute of Music -- will participate.
"The journey is to make all of these instruments playable as traditional instruments again, so that they can be returned to the schools and so that people can work with them," Lang said. "I am only a musician because there were robust music programs in the public schools that I attended as a child. Fifteen hundred broken musical instruments means fifteen hundred missed opportunities to change school children’s lives, the way my life was changed."
The program is the brain child of Robert Blackson, Director of Temple Contemporary at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. Blackson began to form the idea when he learned of instruments left behind after the closure of 23 Philadelphia schools. The instruments were in such bad shape -- how many more broken instruments were sitting in storage?
"We invited all of the instrumental music teachers from across the School District of Philadelphia to bring all of the broken instruments that they had," Blackson said. "They came en masse -- they came with their trunks full, the back seats of their car full, their passenger seat full of broken instruments."
Lang asked Found Sound Nation to go through the instruments and catalog their unique sounds, and his symphony is written specifically for the sounds these instruments make in their broken state.
After the concert, the instruments will be professionally repaired and returned to the schools. In addition, every school with instrumental music classes will receive an instrument repair kit, and a legacy fund for repairs will be established.
If you are interested in joining the effort, click here to adopt an instrument to be repaired. All money raised will benefit the School District of Philadelphia’s Instrumental Music Program. Major support for Symphony for a Broken Orchestra is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Barra Foundation.
What is the state of instrumental music in your own community? This could be an idea worth importing in some form, to fix musical instruments for children in other communities as well.
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