Bringing The Sounds Of Music To Queens Seniors
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- a special person who helps make Long Island a better place.



Bringing 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 Radio’s "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 for them.

"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 Astoria’s 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, "It’s 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."

– Claudia Gryvatz Copquin

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.


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