Violins That Bring Hope

As a musician, I enjoy it when people trust me enough to allow me into their world for important events in their lives. We see them at weddings, funerals, church services, and sometimes in the hospital. It’s a privilege to be invited into someone’s world.

William Shaub holds the Aushwitz violin
(Photo credit Stacy Nickell)

I’ve enjoyed being a part of the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration since the early 90’s, and again this year, it was nice to see Aaron Staples and his chorus I always enjoy getting to hear Doris Talley sing “Praise.”

If you’ve never marched in the MLK parade, I’d encourage you to join in. It’s a wonderful celebration and everyone attending and marching is in a good mood, even if it’s really cold. I marched again this year, and we were relieved when we finished the parade and the temperature finally reached 20 degrees.

James Fellenbaum conducts the Chamber Orchestra and Celebration Choir at the Annual MLK Celebration Concert, “Night with the Arts.”

It’s also been a privilege to play the “Violins of Hope” concert. The stories of the instruments have been really interesting to hear, and it is so haunting to think that there was so much cruelty around the music and the musicians.  It has also been a wonderful chance for me to get to hear some of the string players play solos on instruments that aren’t their own. I’m pretty used to getting to hear Will Shaub, Andy Bryenton and Gordon Tsai play solos, but this has been a rare opportunity to get to hear Zofia Glashouser play a solo with the orchestra. She sounds great, and it’s not even her violin. Also, oboist Ayca Yayman rips through the overture to “La Scala di Saeta” with ease. Even though there is so much sadness that accompanies this concert, hearing these players has been a real bright spot for me. 

The Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School sponsored bringing The Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust to Knoxville in January 2019. Violins of Hope is a collection of over 50 restored violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. These instruments have survived concentration camps, ghettos, pogroms and many long journeys to tell remarkable stories of injustice, suffering, resilience and survival.

Principal Cellist plays the Cello by Dr. Alfred Steizner (Photo Credit by Stacy Nickell)

This life-changing program educated thousands of adults and students in our community through unique, inspirational, and interfaith multimedia events. The violinists and Avshi Weinstein visited school groups with the stories of these violins. It was a memorable concert experience. More at

Ikuko Koizumi holds the Klezmer Violin with Star of David, Michael Acosta holds the Friedman Violin, Audrey Pride holds the Moshe Weinstein Violin
Ruth Bacon plays the Brendel Violin, Edward Pulgar plays the Shimon Korngold Violin, Mary Pulgar plays the Hecht Violin

To see videos of the musicians talking about these unique instruments, head over to the KSO’s Instagram page.

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