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Cellos and Violins Thrown Out With Trash at Hunter College High School

By  Leslie Albrecht and William Gorta | August 31, 2012 7:44am 

UPPER EAST SIDE — Cue the violins — Thursday was the day the music died at Hunter College High School.

A pile of cellos and violins were tossed out with the elite school's trash, causing passers-by to stop in their tracks at the musical graveyard.

Roughly 20 cellos and violins were discarded around 2 p.m. along with bows and instrument cases. The instruments were wheeled out the sidewalk in grey bins then dumped next to the school's garbage, a witness said.

Some of the instruments looked like they needed restringing, but others appeared to be fine, a witness told DNAinfo.com New York. Observers were appalled by what seemed to be the beautiful instruments' undignified end.

"They should have made every effort to give these to some other school or someplace that could really use it," said Shelly Stein, 70, who has lived in the Upper East Side for 35 years. "It's beautiful wood."

The sight of classical instruments heaped in the street caused at least one driver to stop his car and get out to look over the violins. A woman was spotted walking away with a cello stashed in her stroller.

"I was disgusted," said Jane Sussman, who spotted the melodic refuse when she was walked by with her son, Caleb, a cello student whose instrument cost $500 to rent last year.

"It's horrific," Sussman added. "They took perfectly good instruments and instead of donating them to another school that could have used them, they stuck them in the street. It's a disgrace of our public funding."

But an employee at the school said the instruments were tossed because they were beyond repair.

Hunter, on East 94th Street between Park and Madison avenues, is working with a consultant from Lincoln Center on the renovation of its music room, said the employee, who asked not to be named.

The Lincoln Center expert examined the instruments, some of which had been at the school for at least 20 years, to determine whether they could be repaired, he said. Instruments with damaged soundboards were thrown out because there was no way to fix them, the worker said.

Officials at the school, considered one of Manhattan's best, and at Hunter College, which oversees the high school, could not be reached immediately for comment.

The school's website touts music as "an integral part of a liberal arts education" and features a link to a performance by its senior string orchestra.

By 6:50 p.m. the pile of instrument was picked clean, with just a single bow remaining on the sidewalk.

Jane Sussman said her family rescued the last three violins on the sidewalk and would take them to a professional to be refurbished, then donate them to charity.

"Hundreds of children want an instrument," Sussman said. "I can imagine how many schools not far from this neighborhood that don't have music programs would appreciate these instruments."