How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
There is a well-known joke in which the absent-minded maestro violinist Jascha Heifetz was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me”, he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”. “Yes”, answered the maestro breathlessly, “Practice, practice, practice!”
Well, I have my own answer to this famous question:
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Via the subway!”
I have been playing the musical saw in the NYC subway for about 12 years. Last Sunday the subway brought me to Carnegie Hall, where I was a featured soloist in a concert titled ‘A Celebration of Life’.
Accompanied by pianist Margrit Zimmermann, prizewinner in the 1996 ‘International Johannes Brahms Piano Competition’ in Austria and the ‘Roma International Piano Competition’ 1997 in Italy, I performed solos by J.S. Bach and by Saint Saens.
Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz, Margrit Zimmermann, Scott Munson on stage at Carnegie Hall
The centerpiece of the concert was a world premier of a composition by composer Scott R. Munson, ‘The Undeterred’ for piano (Dong Gyun Ham), musical saw (me) and baritone (Byung Woo Kim), a setting of a poem by the same name by Vivian Schulte.
The poet’s granddaughter, Peggy, said that when she turned around to look at the audience (in order to see their reaction to my playing), everybody’s expression was that of awe and astonishment.
In the audience were also people who have been following my career since my first performances on the musical saw.
Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz, Scott Munson, Dong Gyun Ham, Byung Woo Kim back-stage at Carnegie Hall
Denis O’Connell, who has been the stage manager at Carnegie Hall for the past 31 years, said he has never seen the musical saw featured at Carnegie Hall before. My performance might be a Carnegie Hall first for this instrument as a featured soloist (as opposed to the musical saw just as a member of an orchestra).
After the concert there was a nice reception, with waiters whizzing by carrying trays of orderves, and an open bar. Carnegie Hall is very fancy, with golden decorations on the walls and velvet curtains. I received a nice ovation of applause and many compliments afterwards. It was fun, but none-the-less – I am still looking forward to playing in the subway again, and again, and again!
If I hadn’t been playing in the subway I wouldn’t have become as proficient on the musical saw as I got to be. I know it is thanks to the encouragement and enthusiasm of people who see me performing in the subway that I am where I am today. I am now supposed to start getting ready for my concert with the Riverside Symphony Orchestra. But in between my fancy gigs you will always be able to find me playing in the NYC subway.