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Joe’s Violin
In this award-winning documentary short, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor donates his violin of 70 years to a local instrument drive, changing the life of a 12-year-old school girl from America’s poorest congressional district, and unexpectedly, his own. Joe’s Violin poignantly illuminates how the power of music brings light in the darkest of times, how one violin transcends vast generational and cultural differences and how a small act can have a great impact.
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Joe’s Violin

Running Time
24 minutes

Joe’s Violin

When 91-year old Holocaust survivor Joe Feingold heard that his favorite local radio station WQXR was collecting instruments for New York City school kids, he decided the time had finally come to let go of the violin he had cherished for 70 years. Joe had acquired this violin in 1946, trading a carton of cigarettes for it, while living in the Zeilsheim Displaced Persons Camp near Frankfurt, Germany.  The violin was a powerful and emotional reminder of his pre-war Jewish family life in Poland that, thanks to his mother, was filled with music.  Tragically, when WWII hit, Joe’s family was torn apart.  Some family members survived, others were not so fortunate. This violin accompanied Joe to the United States where he made a life for himself. Seven decades later, when Joe dropped off his violin at the instrument drive, he assumed that would be the last he would hear of it. But he was wrong.  Through the WQXR instrument drive and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, the violin found a new home at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls (BGLIG), a charter school in America’s poorest congressional district, where every student learns to play string instruments beginning in kindergarten. The devoted BGLIG staff chose 12-year-old Brianna Perez to receive Joe’s violin. For this young musician, playing violin provides constant comfort through personal challenges and tough times.  In June 2015, Joe and Brianna met for the first time when he accepted her invitation to visit BGLIG and hear her play his instrument. In an emotional meeting, Brianna played a song that his mother sang to him before the war. Although born 80 years apart and from vastly different cultural backgrounds, Joe and Brianna forge a powerful connection through the power of music. Joe’s Violin illuminates how a simple act of giving can make a profound impact on another life, as well as on one’s own.

Filmmaker Notes:

I got the idea for Joe’s Violin when I heard a promo on my car radio for WQXR’s instrument drive. I was driven to tell this story by pure emotion and a gut instinct that there could be something truly beautiful in the idea of two strangers sharing one musical instrument.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2016
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