Internationally-renowned violinist Moshe Hammer, the driving force behind The Hammer Band, recalls: “During the ‘Summer of the Gun’ in Toronto (2006), I was preoccupied with the sad fact that young people – even pre-teens – carry arms regularly and sometimes use them. When imagining myself in those kids’ shoes, or -minds- it became obvious that they were desperately looking to belong, longing to feel good about themselves. I knew then as I do now that introducing young people to music education develops listening skills and self-respect, pride in their accomplishments and sensitivity to others, and has the potential to bring troubled young people into a positive group of youngsters and teachers. More time with the violin means less time on the street. By the end of that summer, The Hammer Band – From Violence to Violins, was born.”
The Hammer Band – From Violence to Violins is a charitable organization that started with an idea in 2006, as renowned violinist’s Moshe Hammer’s response to Toronto’s tragic “summer of the gun.” Believing in the power of music and music instruction to help children of diverse backgrounds from at-risk neighbourhoods to “change their tune,” he walked into a public school in the Jane/Finch corridor during early 2007 and offered to teach there, in venues that are known, safe and secure for the children. That year saw two schools with 40 youngsters participating.
Today, with the help of other professional musicians to teach the students, The Hammer Band is in 18 schools reaching more than 350 children in grades 4 through middle school, during the school day. We have also started master classes for smaller groups of promising and talented players, who benefit from more individualized instruction.
- 2011/2012: The Hammer Band program ran in 15 schools, teaching music lessons to 300 students. Many of the students continued on from the instruction they received in previous years.
- The cello was introduced to students for the first time.
- ‘The Hammer Band’ was featured in The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Wholenote magazine, as well as making an appearance on Global TV
- On April 25th, 2012 The Hammer Band’s ‘All Schools’ Concert brought over 150 students together to perform for family, friends and the community at Brookview Middle School. The event was filmed by Melissa Dozois who has created a documentary about The Hammer Band Program.
- ‘The Hammer Band’ was celebrated at the Business for the Arts event at Telus House in June. Students performed for representatives from major Arts and Business organizations based in Toronto.
- A total of 45 students attended two summer Camps at Topcliff Public and George Webster Elementary schools. They were taught music lessons as well as participating in activities with special guests Yosvani Castaneda and Marilyn Lightstone.
- The Hammer Band students performed at the Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto on July 29th, to enthusiastic crowds who were delighted to learn about the program and it’s goal to prevent violence through violin lessons.
- 2010/11: The program ran from October to late May with 250 children in 12 schools along the Jane/Finch corridor. Many of them were returning students and others were their friends and siblings who had seen them perform in past years, and joined up after this exposure. By the end of the year, all children involved in the program had attained a range of music and academic skills, both rudimentary and advanced;
- A master class began in one of our middle schools for a smaller and more experienced group of young musicians;
- The Hammer Band’s first All-Schools Concert took place in the cafetorium of Brookview Middle School, when more than 100 students played alongside professional musicians for hundreds of their family members, school teachers and principals and other members of the community. Performer Jackie Richardson sang with and for the children, and Mr. Hammer played for the audience as well;
- In the summer of 2011, The Hammer Band’s first summer camp for a smaller group of enthusiastic students took place in downtown Toronto;
- In August, 201l, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) named The Hammer Band as one of their Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) community partners.
- Media highlights during the school year were: a December, 2010, CBC-TV Toronto News story, with subsequent coverage on CBC-Radio; a Toronto Star feature article on the concert and the organization; an article on Homemakers magazine blog and an interview in three languages on Radio-Canada International, as well as coverage on a local fundraising event in a community newspaper.
- 2009/10: The Hammer Band’s program expanded into five more schools, including a middle one, teaching 150 children;
- During the season, musicians from the Rotterdam Philharmonic visited Elia Middle School and also invited some children and their parents to attend their performance at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto;
- A group of children performed at a local mall for shoppers and neighbours;
- An ensemble of The Hammer Band children played at a fundraiser, called “Be Dazzled” for the organization in Toronto, along with Moshe Hammer and other professional musicians. Also, all of The Hammer Band children played in various recitals at their schools for year-end events, attended by families and other members of the community;
- The “Get Involved” organization made a documentary on Moshe Hammer and The Hammer Band as part of its series on inspirational people and ideas making a difference in their communities. It aired on TVO’s companion show in the fall of 2010, and online.
- 2008/2009: The Hammer Band’s program runs in three more schools with more than 70 children participating. Hundreds of people attended five recitals at the three schools, as well as two others in the community, where The Hammer Band musicians played their expanded repertoire;
- Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda, interviews Mr. Hammer on his show about the program.
- 2007/08: The Hammer Band starts its From Violence to Violins program in two schools, Derrydown and Braeburn, teaching 40 students on free violins; the year ends with recitals for 500 family members, neighbours and school teachers/principal.