Ask any musician: every instrument carries with it a story. On Tuesday, February 11, Middle and Upper School students had the opportunity to see, learn about, and hear the Violins of Hope, a collection of string instruments that survived the Holocaust and have been refurbished by father and son violin-makers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein. This stop at Nueva is part of the collection’s first-ever visit to the West Coast, and five of the 51 instruments brought from Tel Aviv were brought to Nueva.
“We have been exploring the notion of music as a source of resistance, which we started during our MLK Week programming,” said Alegria Barclay, director of social justice and equity. “Simultaneously, I learned about the Violins of Hope, which aligns perfectly with our exploration.”
“Our violins represent the victory of the human spirit over evil and hatred,” the Weinsteins shared on their website. “As many as 6 million Jews were murdered in World War II, but their memory is not forgotten. It comes back to life with every concert and every act of love and celebration of the human spirit.”
The presentation was led by sisters Rebecca and Elizabeth Jackson, who shared the story of violinist and Holocaust survivor David Arben. They took Middle and Upper School students through David’s journey, from his childhood in Warsaw and his time in a Nazi camp to his immigration to America and his time in the Philadelphia Orchestra. For each chapter, Rebecca played a selection of music from the Western classical music tradition because, she said, “Arben grew up in that tradition.” (Rebecca and Elizabeth gifted Nueva a copy of the biography of David Arben, written by Rebecca and her father, John.)
During the Q&A part of the presentation, many students asked insightful questions of Rebecca and Elizabeth. Eighth grader Sam P. asked, “Are there instances in which people come with their own violins to be repaired and they want to keep it?” To which Rebecca shared, “For this collection, all of the violins are donated or sold to Amnon and Avshalom. So, the owner has chosen to contribute to this collection.”
In response to a question from junior Willow Taylor C.Y. regarding the fragility of these violins, Rebecca answered, “I wouldn’t say they are more fragile than ones you’d pick up in a music shop. Every person, every instrument has a unique story, and these violins just have a story of significance that others may not.”
Following the presentation, a few Nueva violinists were invited to play one of these special violins. Junior Matthew S. reflected, “It was a great experience to get to play one of these violins.This violin has a deep resonance that makes it feel like I’m playing it during the time period it came from.”
The Violins of Hope presentation captured the importance of music, and how music has helped people remain hopeful during times of deep pain and sorrow. For David, music is what got him through: “Music is life. Music is hope. Music is peace. I cannot ask for more.”