From Skid Row to Disney Hall
October 9, 2005 9:13 AM Subscribe
"I haven't been in a concert hall in 4 billion years". Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, 54, had been excited about an invitation to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic in action at Disney Hall. "The anticipation is horrible". He'd started showering daily at a shelter, to gussy himself up as much as possible. Nathaniel was a music student more than 30 years ago at the Juilliard School when he suffered a breakdown. Today, as he continues to battle the schizophrenia that landed him on skid row, he plays violin and cello for hours each day in downtown Los Angeles, lifting his instruments out of an orange shopping cart on which he has written: "Little Walt Disney Concert Hall — Beethoven." After the Philharmonic's rehearsal, Ayers has played Disney Hall -- the real one, this time. Without the bow at first, picking the strings with his right hand, Bach's Cello Suite No. 1: Prelude. Several Philharmonic staffers heard the music and wandered over, peering in to see a man of the streets, tattered and elegant, close his eyes and drift into ecstasy.
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