Musicopia repairs and donates instruments to teachers in Philly

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Anderson’s Connection is Musicopia, a music education organization that provides in-class and after-school music training to school children in Philadelphia. It also receives donations of musical instruments, repairs them and distributes them to schools. Over the past 10 years, Musicopia has donated around 5,800 instruments to schools, to put them in the hands of children.

In a pre-pandemic period, the organization would provide instruments directly to schools in need. But for the past year, staff have not been allowed to enter schools due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Ken Eidinger, Head of Instrument Donation for Musicopia, inspects a trombone with Musicopia Executive Director Catherine Charlton. (Emma Lee / WHYY)

Musicopia Executive Director Catherine Charlton said she started these Giving Days in January 2021, Martin Luther King Day, as a Day of Service action. Since then, she has made four more, the most recent of which was on November 30, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.

“We are offering instruments as an act of service for Giving Tuesday,” Charlton said.

Most of the thousands of instruments that Musicopia has received over the years have come one by one, from people who no longer need them.

“Maybe their children have grown up. They don’t use them. They are retired musicians who no longer use the instruments. These are the people who clean their family homes and find instruments, ”Charlton said. “What is beautiful is that all these instruments have stories. The instruments are so special to the people who played, held and created them through these instruments. Being able to give them a new life is simply extremely rewarding.

Charlton would like to retrace the stories of each instrument. To this end, Musicopia is developing a new database system for all the instruments it donates: each instrument receives an identification barcode so that it can be tracked throughout the repair and donation process. The system is set up to collect information so that one day Musicopia can relate the story of the instrument’s life with the previous owner, to its new life in the hands of a young student.

“In some situations, we know the stories. We had a family recently, their mother had been with the Delaware Symphony for over 30 years and was a teacher in the Philadelphia School District: the Loder family, ”said Charlton. “They donated their mother’s violin and viola, which we were able to give to the students who were going to the conservatory. A young man is now at the Peabody Institute with Dory Loder’s violin.

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