A teenager’s musical gift

When guests sat down at their tables for Daniel Rubinoff’s bar mitzvah, they were struck by the unique centre pieces.

Instead of flowers or candles, each table was decorated with a musical instrument. Some had bells or maracas, while others had bongos and tambourines.

Accompanying the instruments were cards about Holland Bloorview’s music therapy program – that’s where all of these instruments were going.

Daniel, a generous Grade 8 student at The Toronto Heschel School, spent $1,000 of his own money for these instruments to help Holland Bloorview continue to give kids with disabilities the chance to be expressive and creative through music.

Let there be rock

Daniel loves music. He loves singing, performing and especially guitar – that’s what led to his choosing Holland Bloorview. Though just 13 years old, his favourite music is classic rock. Groups like the Grateful Dead and the Beatles blast through his headphones.

“Before going to Holland Bloorview, I didn’t know much about it, but when I went for a tour I felt connected to the music therapy program, and I think it’s brilliant,” said Daniel, who was joined by his mom, Maureen.

He was moved at seeing music used in so many ways – as a way of calming kids during certain medical procedures, as a way of improving physical coordination, and as a way of connecting.

“Music is its own language,” said Daniel. “For people who cannot speak or communicate, they can still use music to make that connection.”

His mind was also blown at the assistive technology devices being used, like the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI).

The VMI lets kids play music without having to hold an instrument. When a child moves their arm through a virtual dot while facing a large television screen, the VMI translates that physical movement into a musical note.

“It was really, really cool,” said Daniel.

Mom’s take on music therapy

Maureen was also taken aback.

“This program is truly inspirational,” she said. “As a clinician myself, I’m reminded of how medical conditions are much more than a just a diagnosis or treatment. We need to focus on the whole being, and that’s what the music therapy program does.”

She also loved how the staff made music accessible to all kids, regardless of the disability.

“This stuck with me, and I hope, was imparted to my son – that there is always a way to approach the unapproachable, if you’re committed to the goal of helping others,” she said.

Daniel turns up the volume on the importance of giving

Daniel further connected with his bar mitzvah guests by speaking about the importance of giving back.

“We are reminded that it is our intentions and actions that matter most,” he told the audience.

“We are all commanded to give and there are different ways to do so…I had the opportunity to target my efforts toward helping those in need by personalizing my intention to support kids with our shared love of music.”

“It was a very powerful speech,” said his father, Jason.

There is a term in Hebrew called ‘Tzedakah’ which means ‘charity.’

“This term is important to Daniel and it’s important to our family, and our family identity,” said Jason.

The spirit of giving, helping one’s community, “that’s one thing we have really instilled in both our children,” said Jason. (Daniel has a younger brother, Zachary.)

Jason and Maureen have led by example, donating to several charities and foundations, as well as working on several humanitarian projects in Africa.

The song remains the same

Though the instruments were delivered in September, Daniel is determined to stay connected with Holland Bloorview in the future.

“I would love to raise more awareness,” he said.

At school, Daniel is Vice Chair of a student council committee that focuses on charity work and volunteering. (It’s his third year as a leader of this committee.

You can bet that Holland Bloorview will be on the agenda.