There are 1,000 damaged musical instruments that reside in “instrument graveyards” within the Philadelphia Public School System. There are cracked cellos, horns with broken valves, flutes that gasp and leak, and violins that have been vandalized. The schools simply don’t have the funds to fix them. A group of civic leaders commissioned a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer to create a symphony using the broken instruments. Each instrument has been recorded, and the composer will use those individual sounds—those broken sounds—to complete the composition. They’ve called it the “Symphony For a Broken Orchestra.” Proceeds from the concert will go to bringing new life to the instruments.

The “Symphony For a Broken Orchestra” is really a metaphor of what life can be at its best. All of us are broken in our own unique ways. We each have imperfections that sometimes make our songs seem out of tune, especially when we’re all alone on the stage with the spotlight shining brightly on us. Our imperfections can even result in a sense of paralysis that prevents us from taking risks. But we are at our best when we put away our fears of being imperfect to join other imperfect instruments in a unified purpose.

The result? A perfect sound that honors the best in humanity.

Matt Allen

Matt Allen, a native of Shreveport, LA, is a YouthCUE alumnus from the 1990s. He is married to Ashley (they sang in youth choir together) and they have two beautiful children, Thomas (11) and Grace (6). The Allens live in San Antonio, and Matt currently serves on the YouthCUE Board of Trustees.



  1. Describe a time when you personally witnessed a broken group of people courageously succeed against all odds. If you cannot think of a time in your own life, you may choose a favorite movie or a favorite read as your example. Describe in detail.
  2. What were the factors that led to the group’s success in spite of having to work against a strong tide pushing against them?
  3. Was there a leader helping the group succeed? If so, what did that leader do and communicate to overcome the odds?