As the garagelike door rolled up at the 23rd Street Armory here on Sunday evening, 400 student, amateur and professional musicians paraded in with just a helping of the broken instruments that have spent years languishing in this city’s strapped public school system.
A trumpet was held together with blue painter’s tape. A violin, stripped of much of its body, had been reduced to a silhouette. More than one cello was carried in multiple pieces.
These were the unlikely ingredients of “symphony for a broken orchestra,” a new piece by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. It was written as part of a project of the same name to repair more than 1,000 damaged instruments that had been doomed to silence in storage because of severe budget cuts to Philadelphia’s public school music programs.
Robert Blackson, the director of Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art, was the project’s mastermind and said that teachers around the city had been stockpiling the instruments in case the funding to fix them ever materialized. To Mr. Lang, who said in an interview he owes his career to public school music education, those instruments represent “over 1,000 missed opportunities.”
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