Citywide effort grants music teachers with 'instrumental' repair kits

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Sandpaper. Glue. Tightening tools.

For music teachers like Mike Huff, these repairing utensils are a godsend.

"I was using paper clips to tighten up chin rests before," he said. "Now, I have this little tool."

About 70 itinerant teachers in Philadelphia like Huff received repair kits to help students fix their damaged instruments — the next phase for the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project.

The citywide project began two years ago, when organizers discovered thousands of instruments owned by the School District of Philadelphia were broken, and there was no budget to fix them.

Project leaders played with those broken items, creating compositions specifically based on whatever sounds the instruments were able to make.

Rob Blackson, director of Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, who organized the event, said funding started pouring in.

"There's a lot of love for music in this city," he said, "and we were able to tap into that love with all of the generosity that's flown out of the city for this project."  

Blackson said there's now a $50,000 pool of money to be used to repair instruments that are broken beyond what the kits can help to fix.

Teachers picked up the repair kits Monday at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. Twenty more school-based teachers will also be getting kits.

That means no more searching high and low for Huff.

"Oh, look! A tape measure from the International Violin Company," he said, sifting through his kit. "Just things that you always go hunting for. You ask the secretary for, you ask the building engineer for, you know?"

Teacher Sean McCusker noted being able to fix instruments on the spot means students aren't losing valuable practice time.

"Having the ability to repair instruments as damage happens totally changes our ability to deliver quality instrumental music instruction to kids all over Philadelphia," he said.