NASHVILLE, TN — The iconic Violins of Hope Nashville is coming to Middle Tennessee. Three years in the making, this historical project will feature more than 30 events planned between now and June, that is designed to educate, enrich and inspire.
The catalyst for Violins of Hope Nashville is a collection of 32 instruments owned by Jewish musicians who experienced unspeakable horrors in Nazi concentration camps. Restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, the instruments – have been the subject of a best-selling book “Violins of Hope” (by James A. Grymes) and an acclaimed documentary (“Violins of Hope Strings of the Holocaust”) – now stand as symbols of resilience, survival, and hope.
Presented by the Nashville Symphony and the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, this historic initiative started in 2015. It has since become a partnership among more than 25 local organizations, including the Nashville Public Library, Blair School of Music, Nashville Ballet and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. “It’s been a terrific process in the making,” says Steve Brosvik, the chief operating officer of the Nashville Symphony. “We’re really excited about the number of conversations we’ve had with people around the community to see if they would like to participate. The response has been overwhelming. Everyone’s been so eager to create events and focus events they may already be doing, to fits this event.”
According to Mr. Bosvik, the Violins of Hope instruments will arrive in Nashville March 17th from Israel, kicking off a series of events in which the public will be able to see and hear these instruments in person. Upcoming featured events include musical performances, lectures, exhibits, film screenings and more, all designed to foster a citywide dialogue about music, art, social justice, equality and free expression.
The violins, along with one viola and one cello, will be used during the Nashville Symphony’s Aegis Sciences Classical Series concerts on March 22-24, including selections from John Williams’ score for Schindler’s List, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4, “Heichalos.” This Nashville Symphony commission will be recorded live for future worldwide release, and it marks the first time the Violins of Hope have been used on a commercial recording.
Following the Symphony concerts, the collection will move to the Main Public Library in downtown Nashville for the first-ever free public exhibit of the Violins of Hope in the United States, on view starting this month through May 27. Community partners will host related events during the exhibit’s run, many of them free or low-cost.
“This is the first time the instruments will be on display in an exhibit that’s free, and that’s something else we’re very excited about,” says Brosvik. “The Nashville Downtown Library’s been really incredible in allowing us to create an exhibit to talk about the history of the violins, civil rights movements, and social justice….The Holocaust is a very distinct moment in time with a message that we have to remember, but genocide and injustice are still occurring in the world right now, and this gives us an opportunity to talk as a community about the ways we can address these issues,” he adds.
Composer Jonathan Leshnoff will be in Nashville for the performances, as will both violin makers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, who will take part in several community events.
The Nashville Symphony musicians are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the historic Violins of Hope instruments to arrive. The musicians are both honored and excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity to play these historical stringed instruments. Brosvik adds: “Our musicians are so excited! I think it’s a combination of both being excited to have the experience and the honor of playing these instruments, knowing the historical legacy they all have.”
This past October, the Nashville Symphony’s Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki was given the opportunity to play four of the instruments during the Southern Festival of Books event here in town. He told Mr. Brosvik and others, the experience was beautiful but also emotionally difficult to get through because he was thinking about the history of the instruments and of the people and musicians who have owned these very special instruments. It’s truly a miracle the violins have survived.
According to Brosvik, luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein were in Germany recently for two chamber orchestra concerts. A lady approached them saying that she too has a historic stringed instrument from the Holocaust and wants them to restore it back to life. “We might eventually have that instrument coming here to Nashville,” says Brosvik.
He further shared that early buzz about Violins of Hope Nashville has already caused other cities throughout the country to contact them on how they can also create an event using the violins to create a unique event for their particular city and community. Nashville will have one of the longest exhibitions of the instruments. This is one of the few times they will all be on display in a city for 10 weeks.
A comprehensive listing of all upcoming Violins of Hope Nashville event listings and more information can be found at http://www.violinsofhopensh.com/events/ Additional events, including a series of free performances at the Nashville Public Library, will be added in the next upcoming days.