How An Ideological Dispute Inspired The Nashville Symphony to Showcase Violins Of Holocaust Victims

Sep 13, 2017

A collection of violins once played by Holocaust victims is coming to Music City next year.

The Nashville Symphony and more than two-dozen partners announced plans Tuesday to showcase the violins, some of which were played by Jews in Nazi concentration camps.

Interestingly, the idea to host the collection grew out of an earlier conflict between the symphony and the Jewish Federation of Middle Tennessee.

Steven Brosvik, one of the symphony’s top executives, said the organizations butted heads after announcing plans to debut an opera by Roger Waters, who is a well-known anti-Israel activist.

“[Waters] has very distinct political views," Brosvik says. "And Mark Friedman from the [Jewish] Federation came to us and said, ‘You need to know that this is polarizing the community a little bit.’”

The Symphony eventually went ahead with the opera, but Brosvik says that the groups came to realize they had beliefs in common about respecting others’ opinions.

“It really started a closer partnership with us trying to figure out how do we deal with questions like art, and censorship, and speech," Brosvik says.

So when the opportunity to host the “Violins of Hope” came around, the Symphony made sure to involve the Federation.

The Symphony will kick off the series with a performance of music from Schindler’s List and an original work commissioned for the event, all while using the Holocaust violins. The instruments will later be on display in the downtown library, and several other lectures and art events will take place in the following weeks.