Sunday, March 22, 2009

CBS "60 Minutes" presents homeless violinist in LA, befriended by reporter


Tonight (Sunday March 22 2009) Morley Safer on CBS “60 Minutes” presented a brief report on homeless on how reporter Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez met and then chronicled the life of homeless violinist Nathaniel Ayers.

The African American Ayers, raised in Cleveland, had gotten in to Julliard at 19. But suddenly his performance slipped and he wound up in Bellevue Hospital in New York. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but drug treatments available in the 1970s were not effective and neither was electroshock later.

The CBS link is here.

With the help of Mr. Lopez, Ayers met some members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the new Walt Disney Hall. He actually took violin lessons from one orchestra member. The show aired a few segments from the Brahms Piano Concerto #2 and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.

A compendium of the LA Times stories by Lopez appears here.

The friendship is the subject of an upcoming film “The Soloist” by director Joe Wright, from Dreamworks (due at the end of April 2009).

As a note on the Beethoven Eroica: Yesterday, I heard on the radio Haydn’s Symphony #91 in E-flat, not played often. The first movement is also in ¾ time and has some of the same progressive dissonance (in rapid sequential chords) and unresolved tension that is so effective in the Eroica. Perhaps the Haydn work did provide an inspiration.

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