Can music have an impact on social justice causes? What can be learned from playing a collection of old instruments? What stories can an instrument tell?

These questions and more will be explored by Duquesne University's Mary Pappert School of Music at Music from the Holocaust and the Violins of Hope: Survival, Resistance, and Advocacy, a campus-only discussion and performance from 3 to 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in PNC Recital Hall, that will examine the project Violins of Hope, a poignant, moving project coming to Pittsburgh in October 2023.  

The Violins of Hope are string instruments-mainly violins, but also violas and cellos-used by Jewish musicians in the ghettos and concentration camps of the Holocaust.  

"Through the preservation efforts of survivors, family members and others, the instruments ultimately found their way to the Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom, who repaired and restored them so that they may be heard once again," said Dr. Benjamin Binder, chair of musicianship and associate music professor at Duquesne. "The Violins of Hope now travel the world in concerts, educational programs and exhibitions, spreading awareness and inspiring advocacy for marginalized communities."  

Binder, who also heads the School of Music's DEIA committee, collaborated with fellow-committee member Assistant Music Professor Dr. Nicole Vilkner and Sandra Rosen, chair of Violins of Hope: Pittsburgh, to create the campus-only event.  

"We developed this presentation with guest speakers and a performance to make Duquesne University students, faculty and staff aware of this phenomenon and of music's role during the Holocaust and how it helped marginalized communities survive and even protest," Binder said. "It also could be an inspiration for social justice projects among our students."  

Event speakers who will attend in person or virtually include:

  • Dr. James A. Grymes, musicologist at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and author of the book Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust - Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind's Darkest Hour, who will share his research on the historical context of the Violins of Hope and the use of music in the concentration camps.
  • Dr. Lauren Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, will discuss ways that musicians and artists successfully resisted and advocated for endangered communities during the Holocaust.
  • Niv Ashkenazi, virtuoso and concert violinist, will speak about his experiences performing on one of the Violins of Hope instruments at concerts and educational outreach programs featuring the music of composers affected by the Holocaust.  

Lucas Braga, violinist in the School of Music Artist Diploma program, will perform Robert Dauber's Serenade for Violin and Piano, a piece written while the 23-year-old composer was living in the Terezin ghetto, three years before he died of typhoid in the Dachau concentration camp.  

Rosen will then conclude the program by sharing a preview of Violins of Hope: Pittsburgh events that will be held at Duquesne University and across Pittsburgh.   

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October 11, 2022