There’s a quiet gentility that fills this room. A white board that has a rehearsal schedule scrawled on it. A vibraphone anticipates against the wall. Music stands huddle in groups in the corners. Off in another room of Long & McQuade’s Ossington store there’s a low drone. Someone’s discovering music over there. In here, a whole new world is about to be found.
Moshe Hammer’s warm big smile enters before he does. Good afternoon Mr. Hammer! There are several violin cases lined up against the wall, waiting. The DAREarts class of 26 students from seven Rexdale schools have had the morning together at U of T’s Faculty of Music, singing and listening to classical music. Mozart. Vivaldi. Bach. Experiencing firsthand the voice of world renowned tenor, Colin Ainsworth.
Mr. Hammer opens his violin case and shows them how to properly open theirs. There is not only a sense of respect for the instrument; there is almost a magical investment, a conjuring. The case holds something wonderful inside. He holds it aloft. The faces of the children are rapt.
He plays them six notes. The notes float over us as recognition registers on their faces.
He asks them to close their eyes.
He plays them again.
He asks them, “What do you like more? Listening with your eyes open, or closed? What’s different?”
“With eyes open, we see. With eyes closed, we visualize.”
That’s a child’s voice. Happy Birthday becomes a profound moment. “When you close your eyes, you can see the table and the candles and everyone around it.”
Now imagine this lovely man, with a soft Hungarian accent, saying to kids, I love your eyes.
A kid in the back row pipes up, “Thank You!”
He answers, “You’re Welcome!”
Sitting quietly is a young woman who will help once the violins are in the children’s hands. Internationally renowned violinist, Veronique Mathieu, is laughing out loud at the reactions of the children as they listen to Mr. Hammer explain what sound is.
What makes a sound?
Vibration. “Isn’t that fascinating?” He talks about the world as a wonderful place to be.
He holds up the bow. What is it made of? Horse hair. Every once in a while, a horse gets a little hair-cut. Why horse hair? Because it’s rough! So it can pull on the string. He draws it across a string. A beautiful stream of honey fills the room. Then he cuts it short: “This string . See it move back and forth? Two hundred times a second. Vibrations. Two hundred! Isn’t that wonderful? “
A physics lesson.
He divides the groups up and they open the cases, just as he did. The violins are shiny. They make the florescent lights seem like candles.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Big hands guide the little ones. The violin rests under the chin. The bows, some gripped in tight fists until they are re-positioned by the teachers there, move tentatively over the strings, then with more confidence. DAREarts teachers Laura, Mackenzy and Molly all assist the students and show them how to position the instrument under their chins, where to put their hands and how to hold the bow. A little voice rises over the din: “I’m doing it!” As they pass the violin to the next person in their team, they help the new player with the positioning.
They become teachers.
After everyone has had a chance to learn those seven notes, the violins were put back into their cases.
Mr. Hammer asks if anyone would like to come up and play in front of the class. That seems like a tall order to a room full of kids who held a violin in their hands for a total of fifteen minutes each. Up pops a little boy. He gets the wrong note.
Mr. Hammer looks him in the eye. “It’s okay to make a mistake. You understand?”
Veronique plays a classical piece. Some of them sing along with her. The children applaud her. They all had a discussion about the music they heard that morning. They’d heard that piece before, on TV. Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”.
He asks them who would like to have violin lessons. A lot of hands shoot up. It’s hard work. Remember practice means repetition, and good practice makes perfect.
They stand up, face him and sing the song they learned just hours ago at U of T’s Faculty of Music. I can hear it now, with my eyes closed.
And it is beautiful.
We merry minstrels
Soft music enjoy
For music doth hatred and malice destroy
We sing so brightly
We drive away care and
With our soft harmony
Here are some sites featuring some of today’s brilliant DAREartists.
We’d also like to extend a warm thank you to Long & McQuade for their continued partnership and support in unleashing potential in our kids and their communities.
For media questions contact Cathy Elliott, Director of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org