Instruments to artwork: Mayo High School students repurpose broken cellos for fundraiser

The Mayo High School music department’s has planned an upcoming trip to Florida.

Mayo High School Cello (2).png
Contributed / Mayo High School
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ROCHESTER — Broken beyond repair, a pile of cellos collecting dust in the bowels of Mayo High School was destined for the trash until a student saw their potential.

The student, Brooklyn Pagel, took one of the cellos home and spent two weeks in June painting van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on the body of the instrument.

Although it was Pagel's idea, Mayo Orchestra teacher Katie Kuisle said she loved the concept.

“We have this cello graveyard of instruments that the repair people won’t touch anymore because they basically can’t be fixed," Kuisle said. “We realized maybe that’s what we should be doing with these beautiful instruments — turning them back into something beautiful even though they can’t be played.”

Following Pagel’s lead, a number of other students grabbed their brushes and painted the other broken cellos. No longer instruments used to make art in concert halls, the cellos have become a form of art in and of themselves.


And now, the school is auctioning them off to help fund the Mayo High School music department’s upcoming trip to Florida. The auction began on Tuesday and is scheduled to go through 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8. The trip is open to all Mayo students in band, orchestra or choir.

In addition to selling the cellos-turned-artwork, the school is raising money for additional cellos.

Pagel loved the result of the cello she painted. And in some sense, she’s sad to see it go. At the same time, she said she's glad it's able to help pay for the school's upcoming trip.

“I think the ability to sell my art for opportunities like that is very important,” Pagel said. “And I want to be able to do that in the future, so I should start now.”

Pagel said “Starry Night” was the first thing that came to her mind when she decided to paint the cello. She started studying the painting and then began recreating it on a piece of paper. She then sketched the image on the cello with a pencil before painting the instrument itself.

Even if she’s not the one who gets to keep it, giving the instruments a renewed purpose is something she thought was important.

“They’re beautiful instruments, and people spend a lot of time making them,” she said. “I didn’t want them to just go in the trash."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
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