Monday, May 12, 2008


There is something universal about stories that lift you up; stories that give you hope - and stories about real people.

Steve Lopez is a columnist with the LA Times who has published a book based on the columns he wrote about a very unusual man he met on the street, playing a violin with only 2 strings.
From Penguin books at

When Steve Lopez saw Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles’ skid row, he found it impossible to walk away. More than thirty years earlier, Ayers had been a promising classical bass student at Juilliard—ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans—until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by schizophrenia. When Lopez finds him, Ayers is homeless, paranoid, and deeply troubled, but glimmers of that brilliance are still there.

Over time, Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers form a bond, and Lopez imagines that he might be able to change Ayers’s life. Lopez collects donated violins, a cello, even a stand-up bass and a piano; he takes Ayers to Walt Disney Concert Hall and helps him move indoors. For each triumph, there is a crashing disappointment, yet neither man gives up. In the process of trying to save Ayers, Lopez finds that his own life is changing, and his sense of what one man can accomplish in the lives of others begins to expand in new ways.

Poignant and ultimately hopeful, The Soloist is a beautifully told story of friendship and the redeeming power of music.

I talk with Steve Lopez this week on Realgoodwords about his friendship with Nathaniel and how it has affected them both. If Steve hadn't stopped that day to see who was playing such intricate music, he wouldn't have made the connection he did. He wouldn't have done something to make a difference in someone's life.

What have you stopped your busy day for? What are you glad you took the time to take a second look at? Tune in Wed. May 14th for my conversation with Steve Lopez.

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