KPCC photos by Grant Slater.
While LA Unified was stumbling toward getting many students iPads, it was forcing music students to learn on broken instruments or to share flutes and clarinets. The district's sole repair shop downtown has at least 2,600 broken instruments sitting on shelves. "Some have been waiting there for years," says KPCC in a report by Mary Plummer and photographer Grant Slater.
Tony White, the performing and visual arts coordinator for the district's after school branch, Beyond the Bell, said that an instrument shortage means as many as five students have to share each one. In other words, those 2,600 instruments could bring music instruction to 13,000 students if they were working.
"For me, it's like a war scene," he said, looking around the 6,200 square foot warehouse. "We have thousands of instruments here that are in desperate need of being repaired to get out to our kids."
The shelves of instruments belong to the district's music repair shop - which has been around since 1960. It was once a well-oiled machine, its staff of 25 pushing the instruments out almost as quickly as they came in. Teachers would routinely get their repaired instruments back in a week or two.
Between budget cuts and a recent spree of retirements, only six repair technicians are left. None of them can repair woodwinds, leaving no one on staff to clear the backlog of broken oboes, bassoons and clarinets.
"It's a little demoralizing," said Edwin Barker, the shop's last remaining stringed instrument repairman.