'The Last Repair Shop' inspires flood of donations for young musicians, musical instruments following Oscar win

"The Last Repair Shop" creators stand on stage at a podium

On Oscars night, “The Last Repair Shop” took home the Academy Award for best documentary short and inspired a flurry of donations for the music repair program featured in the doc. 

The doc short, which is currently available to stream on Disney+, is a love letter to young musicians in the Los Angeles public school system and the craftspeople who repair their instruments for free. 

Directing duo Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers accepted the award alongside 11-year-old violinist Porche Brinker, a student featured in the documentary. 

In his acceptance speech, Bowers — who composed the scores for “Green Book” and “The Color Purple” — talked about the importance of investing in today’s youth and removing barriers to music education. 

Kris Bowers of "The Last Repair Shop" speaks on stage
Kris Bowers speaks at a fundraising event for LAUSD. Photo by Molly O'Keeffe/Breakwater Studios

“LA is one of the last cities in America to give public school students free and freely repaired instruments,” Bowers said as he accepted the award. “We need to fix that because musical education isn't just about creating incredible musicians; it's about creating incredible humans.”

The doc follows four craftspeople (Dana Atkinson, Paty Moreno, Duane Michaels, and Steve Bagmanyan) as they oversee the maintenance of over 80,000 instruments, and highlights how their work enriches the lives of students in LA public schools. 

After receiving their nomination, Bowers and Proudfoot launched a fundraiser to support the LAUSD Education Foundation’s music education program and the very repair shop featured in the doc. 

“We're thrilled to announce a $15 million capital campaign to help shore up the repair shop,” Proudfoot told reporters. “You can go to thelastrepairshop.com right now. Everybody watching — $5, you know, $10, anything — everything helps, and I think it goes to show the power of the short documentary.” 

According to the public fundraiser website, the money will go toward program costs, support staff, and a new apprenticeship program for rising students to learn repair skills firsthand. 

Hours after the Oscars aired, $9,000 was raised with a public donations goal set at $5 million. 

Kris Bowers plays at a piano with "The Last Repair Shop" displayed on the instrument
Photo by Todd Williamson/Breakwater Studios

A press release noted that Bowers teamed up with Searchlight Pictures to make the first gift of the campaign by donating a restored 1913 Steinway & Sons K-52 upright piano to Third Street Elementary School — the same school that Bowers attended as a kid. 

“I came up learning piano on an LAUSD upright,” Bowers said of the donation. “I know firsthand what having access to a working instrument can mean for a young kid who yearns to express themselves through music. 

“We are so excited that the LAUSD Education Foundation and The Broad Foundation have been inspired by our film to launch this worthy campaign that will change the lives of young Angelenos for generations to come.”

Header image by Molly O’Keeffe/Breakwater Studios

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March 11, 2024 10:46 AM
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