Meet the dedicated professionals who help keep the music playing for young artists in the LAUSD in new film ‘The Last Repair Shop’


LOS ANGELES (KABC) — “The Last Repair Shop” has made the short list for the 96th Academy Awards. This L.A. story is now one of 15 documentary short films vying for an Oscar nomination from an initial 114 entries in the category. The film offers an “instrumental” look at the inner workings of a shop that is making a difference for young musicians.

“So there are instruments that are called B.E.R., which is… beyond economic repair,” explained filmmaker Ben Proudfoot.

Just outside downtown L.A., directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers gave us a special tour inside a special building. There is music everywhere you look – and care around every corner.

“The Last Repair Shop” tells the stories of the technicians who maintain 80,000 instruments for the Los Angeles Unified School District. They repair them without cost for the students who lovingly play them.

Porche Brinker, 11, is one of them.

“I come from school and then I want to take a nap. But I have to do homework. And then I want to take a nap, but I’m, like, I want to play violin. I have to play violin. I need to play violin,” she said.

Porche works hard to master the violin with help from the expert technicians repairing the strings, the woodwinds, the brass, even the pianos.

“They may look not very nice cosmetically but they’re very good brand name pianos, very well built pianos and they’re gonna serve another 40, 50 years easy,” said Steve Bagmanyan, music shop supervisor.

“It feels like, you know, the North Pole of musical instruments, you know?” said Bowers. “It feels like such an incredible workshop, just even looking around at all the instruments and the history.”

Proudfoot agrees: “And if you think about, you know, the students of Los Angeles Unified School District who went on to shape music, I mean, from John Williams, North Hollywood High School, right? To Kendrick Lamar…I mean, you start going down the list of all the amazing people that really have created the music of the 20th century and 21st century, a lot of it comes back to these instruments that all filter through this room in the LAUSD system. So, it’s a holy place for music in the world.”

Duane Michaels, a woodwind technician says: “It’s very satisfying to sit here, you know? I’m thinking somebody’s grandkid is going to play the saxophone and it could be my grandchild.”

Dana Atkinson has been fixing instruments for more than 50 years.

“Sometimes they come in almost like kindling wood and if it’s worth it and it’s possible, we put them back together,” Atkinson said.

The caretakers here also share their own life stories… all very personal ones. Estella Patricia Moreno told us this job keeps her feeling alive. She came here from Mexico, raising her kids as a single mom, sometimes without food on the table. This job changed her life. She’s loved it for 20 years, even if her customers are unaware she’s out there.

“They don’t know what I’m doing on my end, but I know what I’m doing–changing someone’s life,” said Moreno.

Which brings us back to Porche, who treated us to her favorite piece of music, “Ode to Joy,” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

“The Last Repair Shop” is available to watch for free on YouTube.

MORE: ‘Last Repair Shop’ transforms old musical instruments for LAUSD kids

The new documentary “The Last Repair Shop” takes us inside is a place where broken or damaged musical instruments are brought back to life by skilled technicians, who know how important their service is to LAUSD students.

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