• Country: United States
  • Initial release: November 8, 2023 (United States)
  • Film Director: Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot
  • Running Time: 39 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 7.7

Music has the power to touch our souls, shape our emotions, and inspire creativity. For thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), music is an integral part of their education. However, maintaining and repairing musical instruments can be a challenging task. That’s where The Last Repair Shop comes in. Directed by Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot, this captivating documentary sheds light on a group of dedicated craftspeople who ensure that over 80,000 instruments are in good repair for the students of LAUSD. In this article, we’ll explore the inspiring stories behind The Last Repair Shop and the impact it has on the lives of young musicians.

The Importance of Instrument Repair

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, students from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn and play musical instruments. However, these instruments require regular maintenance and repair to stay in optimal condition. The Last Repair Shop showcases the vital role played by skilled technicians in ensuring that students have access to high-quality instruments. This repair shop, located in downtown LA, is the last of its kind in America, providing free repairs to public school students and fostering a love for music in the community.

The Journey of The Last Repair Shop

The Last Repair Shop documentary takes viewers on a journey through the lives of the craftsmen who work tirelessly to keep the instruments in pristine condition. Co-directors Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot introduce us to the heartwarming stories of the technicians in the shop, each with their own unique background and connection to music.

Steve Bagmanyan: A Journey of Resilience

Steve Bagmanyan, the general manager of The Last Repair Shop, has a remarkable story of resilience and determination. Originally from Azerbaijan, Steve had to flee his country in the face of ethnic persecution. Arriving in America with limited English skills, he found solace in his passion for music. Today, he not only oversees the repair shop but is also a skilled piano tuner, ensuring that every piano in the school district is finely tuned for young musicians.

Dana Atkinson: Repairing Strings, Repairing Lives

Dana Atkinson, a technician specializing in stringed instruments, brings his own personal journey to The Last Repair Shop. As a young man struggling with his sexuality, Dana found solace in music. His work at the repair shop not only involves restoring broken violins and cellos but also serves as a metaphor for his own journey of self-acceptance and healing.

Paty Moreno: An American Dream in Brass

Paty Moreno, the sole woman in the shop and responsible for repairing brass instruments, has an inspiring story of pursuing the American dream. As a Mexican immigrant and single mother, Paty faced numerous challenges. However, her dedication to her craft and her desire to provide the best instruments for the students of LAUSD drives her to excel in her work and make a difference in the lives of young musicians.

Duane Michaels: From a $20 Fiddle to the Repair Shop

Duane Michaels, the woodwind technician, has a colorful story to share. From playing with his band, Bodie Mountain Express, on Elvis’s biggest night, to fixing woodwind instruments at The Last Repair Shop, Duane’s journey is full of unexpected twists and turns. His passion for music shines through as he shares his experiences and the joy of repairing instruments that bring music to life.

The Impact on Students’ Lives

The Last Repair Shop not only focuses on the dedicated craftsmen but also highlights the profound impact their work has on the students of LAUSD. The documentary introduces us to young musicians who rely on the repaired instruments provided by the school district to pursue their musical aspirations.

Instrumental to Success: The Students’ Perspective

Porche Brinker, a student violinist, expresses her gratitude for the instrument provided by the school. She acknowledges the pivotal role it plays in her life and how it has become an extension of her identity. Ismerai Calcaneo, a saxophonist, shares how her school-provided saxophone has become her source of solace and a way to channel her emotions. These stories exemplify the transformative power of music and the importance of repairing instruments for young musicians.

Overcoming Challenges: Music as a Healing Force

Amanda Nova, a young pianist, opens up about her struggles with mental health and the pressure to excel. She shares how music acts as a healing force, allowing her to find solace and express herself. Kris Bowers, himself an LAUSD alum, relates to Amanda’s experiences and emphasizes the role music played in his own journey. The Last Repair Shop highlights the therapeutic nature of music and the positive impact it has on young musicians’ well-being.

The Last Repair Shop: A Love Letter to Music

The Last Repair Shop is not just a documentary about repairing instruments; it’s a love letter to music itself. Co-directors Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot, both accomplished musicians and filmmakers, bring their passion for music to this project. Through their storytelling, they pay tribute to the unsung heroes who ensure that the gift of music reaches every student in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Recognition and Impact

The Last Repair Shop has garnered acclaim within the film industry, receiving two Critics Choice Association nominations and a spot on DOC NYC’s Short List. Searchlight Pictures and L.A. Times Studios recognized the importance of this documentary, partnering to bring it to a global audience. By streaming the film for free on the Los Angeles Times’ YouTube channel and website, they aim to raise awareness about the vital role of instrument repair in public schools and inspire other cities to follow suit.

1 Film Review

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  • The Last Repair Shop is a powerful testament to the dedication, craftsmanship, and love that goes into repairing musical instruments for students. Through the personal stories of the technicians and the impact on young musicians’ lives, this documentary showcases the transformative power of music and the importance of maintaining instruments in good repair. As the last repair shop of its kind in America, The Last Repair Shop serves as a reminder of the value of music education and the lasting impact it can have on generations to come.