March 19, 2020 - May 24, 2022
An initiative of Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music, and hundreds of professional and amateur musicians from throughout Philadelphia.
"Each broken instrument represents a student who’s unable to participate in music programs." Allison Meier, Hyperallergic, 2017
“This was a case where there was something art could do to really solve a problem.” Composer David Lang, 2017
Symphony for a Broken Orchestra debuted in 2017. The arrangement, by composer and Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang, was performed by 375 professional and amateur musicians from throughout Philadelphia. The broken instruments were sourced from the School District of Philadelphia, the owner of more than 1,000 broken instruments that could not be repaired because of the district’s limited budget.
This collaborative city-wide initiative was set in motion by Tyler School of Art and Architecture’s Director of Temple Contemporary Robert Blackson after visiting a school where he saw first-hand a gymnasium of broken pianos. Blackson realized that this was not an isolated issue. He soon discovered that there were many schools with rooms of damaged instruments that totaled more than 1,000.
Blackson turned a problem into an opportunity and created the three-part project Symphony for a Broken Orchestra: an exhibition of the broken instruments, an unconventional musical score inspired by “the cacophony of the Philadelphia schools’ imperfect instruments” and a fundraiser to “adopt” an instrument to support on-going maintenance that “puts instruments back into the hands of a child.”
Over 1,000 instruments in the School District of Philadelphia repaired or replaced. Instrument repair kits were distributed to every public school instrumental music teacher in Philadelphia. Over $500,000 was raised by Temple Contemporary to support this project.