Strumming their pain: musical interlude at Villawood

DO you have an old guitar at home, sitting in the cupboard gathering dust? Volunteer music teacher Philip Feinstein would be most grateful if you’d donate it to the refugees he teaches at Villawood Detention Centre.

Feinstein is calling for musical instruments – including guitars, violins, pianos and percussion instruments – to be donated at one of the community drop-off points he has organised.

“These refugees are human beings and are traumatised and under enormous stress,” Feinstein told The AJN. “Whether you’re listening to music or playing an instrument, music relieves stress.

“I do music lessons with the refugees. Even if they’ve never played an instrument before, they still have such smiles and joy on their faces. It’s a reprieve.”

Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra is acting as a drop-off point. “They’re ecstatic to be involved,” Feinstein said. “They have a fantastic social justice outreach program.”

When he began volunteering at Villawood three years ago, Feinstein found there were no instruments at the centre, despite music classes being held. He emailed friends and family, asking for donations of unwanted musical instruments.

The emails were forwarded on and instruments arrived from all over the country. The success inspired Feinstein to begin another donation drive.

“If we can get things going at Villawood we can get things going across the country,” he said.

Feinstein, who has been involved in the Jewish community and has worked with B’nai B’rith, was touched by the generosity of many Jews in donating instruments.

“So many Jewish people donated instruments. It didn’t matter to them that many of the refugees are Muslim. “I don’t care where they’re from or if they’re Jewish or Muslim or whatever else.

“They’re still human beings. I don’t get involved in the political side, I get involved with the people.”

For a full list of drop-off centres or more information, please email Philip Feinstein at [email protected].


Volunteer music teacher Philip Feinstein with guitars donated to Villawood Detention Centre.