Metro Morning

Torontonians offer to replace piano left behind by fleeing Syrian family

CBC Radio listeners are stepping up for a Syrian family in a big way, offering to buy or give them a piano after hearing their story of leaving their treasured instrument behind when they fled to Canada.

CBC listeners, Royal Conservatory, Sistema - offers come in after Metro Morning segment

A Metro Morning listener offered his Mason & Risch baby grand piano to a family forced to leave their treasured instrument behind when they fled Syria. ((Sistema Toronto))

CBC Radio listeners are stepping up for a Syrian family in a big way, offering to buy or give them a piano after hearing their story of leaving their treasured instrument behind when they fled to Canada.

Anie Kheshvajian used to play the piano for her daughter in their home in Aleppo, Syria.

"Chopin, Beethoven, Bach," said Kheshvajian. "My daughter, she loves Chopin,"  

Kheshvajian and her family fled their home this year, leaving behind everything they owned, including her piano, for an apartment in Scarborough.

The family is safe now. But Karina, Kheshvajian's daughter, still cries about what happened. She misses playing the piano too. She had been studying it since she was still a toddler.

This week, CBC reporter Mary Wiens brought the story of the Kheshvajians to Metro Morning listeners for the series City of Sanctuary. During her interview, Anie Kheshvajian vowed to buy another piano in Canada, and that one day she would play again.

That day has come. After the story aired, several listeners offered the family a piano. 

"Hi Mary, I have a piano I can arrange to donate to the family you are profiling. Someone would need to move it. It is a lovely baby grand."

That was David Visentin's message to Wiens when he heard her story about the family. He immediately wanted to help.

Visentin is head of Sistema Toronto, part of a global music movement that began in Venezuela and spread to dozens of countries around the world, providing free music instruction to children from low-income families. In Toronto, the free after-school program offers ten hours of music instruction per week, all taught by classically trained musicians who volunteer their time.

Visentin's piano is a vintage baby grand made by Mason & Risch. Fittingly for the new arrivals, this piano was manufactured in their new home, one of the last pianos made at the company's now-closed Toronto factory.

"OMG - it's amazing! This is the one that I dreamt of. Thank you so much," Karina said to Visentin when he offered the baby grand.

"I think you were meant to have this piano in your life," he replied.

The piano will be delivered next Thursday.

'Tough to have music go out of your life'

The story resonated with Metro Morning listeners, and more than a dozen other offers to replace the instrument came in.

"I would love to send that Syrian family an electronic keyboard. I can order it from BestBuy and have it delivered to them if you can tell me where to send it," wrote one listener. "It is tough to have music go out of your life."

Another listener wanted to lend her piano to the Kheshvajians

"I heard the story about the Syrian refugee family that has just come to Toronto. I was really stirred by the importance they put on music in their life, almost before anything else. I have a piano that is sadly not used. I would like to donate it for the refugee family to use until they can purchase one of their own."

Another offer  came from Kate Sinclair at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

"I'm not surprised that there were so many other people who wanted to help," said Sinclair. "People who play an instrument get it. They know what it means — the discipline, the structure, the training that it takes to learn an instrument. And the way that impacts you for the rest of your life."

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