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VIDEO | 39:58
The Last Repair Shop

The Last Repair Shop

In a warehouse in the heart of Los Angeles, a dwindling handful of devoted craftspeople maintain more than 80,000 student musical instruments, the largest remaining workshop in America of its kind. Meet four unforgettable characters whose broken-and-repaired lives have been dedicated to bringing so much more than music to the schoolchildren of this city.

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As one of the millions of kids who graduated from the Los Angeles Unified School District, I spent every moment I could with the school’s piano. There, I found a safe place, and I found my voice. Those were the foundational moments that propelled me into the school band. To Juilliard. To the Oscars. To fulfill my wildest dreams and meet my heroes as a musician and film composer.

The one person I never got to meet was the man who tuned that school piano.

In making “The Last Repair Shop,” my directing partner Ben Proudfoot and I got the chance to tell the tale of four extraordinary master craftspeople who ensure, day in and day out, that L.A.’s schoolchildren have playable instruments in their hands. We were floored and proud to find out that our city, Los Angeles, was home to the last shop of this kind in the country.

When I stepped inside the Los Angeles Unified School District’s central instrument shop four years ago, I was surrounded by incredible cinematic imagery: cascading ribbons of sawdust, blazing torches soldering brass, the grand choreography of the thousands of tiny pieces that magically coalesce inside a piano. I expected that. But what I didn’t expect was that every one of the technicians’ life stories would break my heart and put it back together again.

Including Steve Bagmanyan’s, the man who tuned my middle and elementary schools’ piano.

“The Last Repair Shop” is a love letter to our city. It’s a testament to understanding how broken something is — and fixing it anyway. And it’s a tribute to those who toil away, largely without thanks, in service of helping the next generation grow in harmony.

Thanks, Steve.

* * *

Editor’s Note: This film won the Oscar for best documentary short for the 2024 Academy Awards.

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