In the 13-minute documentary, Broken Orchestra, a camera glides through a deserted high school in Philadelphia, moving down hallways and up stairwells and occasionally entering into classrooms that are full of broken-down instruments. Throughout the high school, there are television sets and, on each television, a different persons talks about being a part of the Broken Orchestra.
At a time when the schools of Philadelphia (which, we’re told, is the poorest big city in America) were struggling, budget cuts were leading to the cancellation of music programs. Those programs that managed to survive often had to make due with damaged instruments. Because students were having to use damaged tools, they often couldn’t play the type of music that they wanted create.
When a huge amount of damaged instruments were found in an abandoned high school, the Broken Orchestra was born. The all-volunteer orchestra played on those instruments and proved that even a damaged instrument could be used to make unique music and, in much the same way, greatness can even come out of a damaged school or a damaged city. Even a damaged instrument still has something to say. Even a damaged instrument is still worth listening to.
It’s certainly in inspiring story and one that also makes a good argument for funding music and other artistic programs. Everyone who discusses their part in the Broken Orchestra was obviously touched by the experience and it’s impossible not to get swept up in their emotions. If I do have a complaint, it’s that I wish we had heard a bit more of the orchestra but still, it’s an inspiring story.