The Sounds Of Music To Queens Seniors
She has performed
with the prestigious Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestro
Zubin Mehta. She has played with National Public Radios "A
Prairie Home Companion" program. And she has received a musical
Medal of Honor from the mayor of the Maison Alfort region of Paris.
Despite these accomplishments, nothing brings Natalia Paruz more
joy than to stand in front of a group of senior citizens, watching
the smiles on their faces as she plays her most unusual instrument
"As a performer,
I am bringing back to life an old American tradition: making beautiful
music with a handsaw," she says. In the beginning, the saw
was a hobby. Paruz emigrated to the U.S. from Israel 12 years ago,
and was training as a dancer with the Martha Graham Company. But
"I was involved in a taxicab accident in Manhattan," as
a pedestrian, she says. "That put an end to my dance career.
My legs are okay, but I have permanent damage to my back."
It was on a
trip to Austria that she discovered the musical handsaw, which she
took up upon returning home. Since then, Paruz has shared this unusual
musical instrument in free performances all over the city, "with
a special emphasis on my own hometown, Astoria," she says.
She has played at Astorias Salvation Army Corp. Community
Center, Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island, the Woodside
Senior Citizen Center and numerous other places. During the holiday
season, it is not surprising to find Paruz performing for people
standing in long lines at a local bank.
Paruz is also
involved in bringing the arts to people through volunteering for
organizations such as Astoria Arts, which she founded to help local
artists learn about exhibition and performance opportunities, the
Greater Astoria Historical Society and Community Board 1. "This
is the third year I am initiating and organizing the Arts Fair at
Athens Square," which introduces artists to community residents.
As for the saw,
"Its a lot of fun, but more than fun. If I feel bad,
I go in front of a group of seniors, see how happy they are. It
uplifts my own spirit, celebrating happiness with them."