What is Symphony for a Broken Orchestra?

Symphony for a Broken Orchestra is a long-term initiative committed to re-imagining sustainable art education throughout the Philadelphia School District. As part of our work, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang was commissioned to write a new composition entitled Symphony for Broken Instruments featuring approximately 400 of the School District of Philadelphia’s 1,000 broken instruments. This new work premiered on December 3, 2017, and was performed by a specially assembled orchestra of 400 musicians from across Philadelphia and was conducted by Jayce Ogren.

Following the performance, Temple Contemporary, in collaboration with instrument repair professionals, are in the process of repairing all of the fixable instruments and returning them back to the School District in the fall of 2018. Instrument repair kits will also be installed in every public school offering instrumental music classes, allowing any broken instruments in the future to be repaired directly in the classroom.

When was the performance?

The concert took place on Sunday, December 3, 2017 at the historic 23rd Street Armory (22 South 23rd Street, Philadelphia).

Are you accepting donated instruments?

No, we are not able to accept any donated instruments. Our focus through this project is to fix the instruments that are owned by the Philadelphia School District.
There are some local and regional organizations that may accept a donation. Please visit:

What happens to the instruments after the concert?

We are working with instrument repair professionals after the concert that are fixing all of the instruments that can be fixed. Once they are repaired, they will be returned to the school from which they originated. In addition, we will also be installing musical repair kits in each of the schools that offer music instrument classes, giving teachers the tools needed to make any simple repairs in the future.

How is the project funded?

Major support for this project comes from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and The Barra Foundation. Additionally over 900 individuals from all over the world have adopted instruments on our website raising over $250,000 to support instrumental music education in our city’s public schools!

How does the project help the Philadelphia School District?

Currently the School District of Philadelphia has a limited budget. Through this project we hope to highlight music education in our public schools, and provide support to fix the instruments in need of repair, returning them back to the classrooms and making it possible for more children to play. The music repair kits that will be installed in each of these schools will also provide an on-going resource so that when instruments need simple repairs, these will be able to be done.

Can I play in the concert?

We are no longer accepting musician applications to play in the concert.  Thanks to overwhelming support over 400 musicians signed up to play in the concert between January and October of 2017 and we now have all of the musicians we need to play the piece.  Thank you! If you’d still like to support the project – please consider Adopting an Instrument

What is Temple Contemporary?

Temple Contemporary’s mission is to creatively re-imagine the social function of art. We believe in democratic leadership as the most appropriate way to produce an artistic program that inclusively responds to pressing issues of local and national significance. Embodying this democratic ethos, our program development is guided by a forty-member advisory council representing a broad spectrum of Philadelphia, including neighboring high school students of color, Temple University students and faculty, as well as civic/cultural leaders representing a range of skills (nurses, farmers, philosophers, artists, community activists, local historians, etc.). To each annual meeting every adviser brings one question of local relevance and international significance to which they do not know the answer. After all of the questions are communally discussed, the council votes for the issues deemed to reflect Philadelphia’s greatest social and cultural needs.

This process puts Temple Contemporary into a position of public service to address contemporary questions of urgency and simultaneously necessitates a fundamental philosophical shift for the organization: from a single curatorial/authorial voice to one that recognizes social engagement and debate as the determining factor of our programming. This re-ordering of conventional gallery values foregrounds curatorial accountability, reciprocity, and exchange as the basis of Temple Contemporary’s social life, and by extension, our social values. The questions guiding our work have prompted recent projects including Funeral for a Home (What to do about about Philadelphia’s deteriorating housing?); reForm (If the walls of a closed public school could talk, what would they say?); Restoring Ideals (How does our non-profit community reflect Philadelphia’s founding ideals) and now Symphony for a Broken Orchestra. Temple Contemporary is part of Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University.