Queens Tribune, special issue: Community Charachters, Oct. 28-Nov. 3rd, 2004

Natalia "Saw Lady" Paruz

“Today I have 17 different saws, each one has a different register and different amount of notes on it.”

Nickname: Natalia Paruz
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Astoria

Natalia Paruz, known throughout New York City as the “Saw Lady” and throughout the world as one of the most accomplished musical saw performers of her generation, just got back from Paris where she judged the International Saw Competition and performed the saw with the Moroccan Philharmonic Orchestra.

Greatest Achievement

At 29-years-old, Paruz has an impressive resume. Although playing the saw is a very specialized skill, it is also a fairly rare instrument to be included in orchestras around the world. Yet Paruz plays in orchestras around the world.
There is no music school for the saw and there aren’t even saw musicians who teach the saw. It is a tradition of the instrument that someone who wants to learn will learn it on their own or by watching others perform. Although not really interested in music when she was young, she took piano and guitar lessons, but not seriously, Paruz saw someone perform and became fascinated by the craft.
“I was in Europe and there was one performance where one guy was playing the saw and I thought it was so cool,” she said. She asked the guy for lessons but he said no. “He said the tradition of the instrument is that you pick it up and figure it out.”
The result is that every saw player has a different technique and each person reinvents the instrument for themselves.

Community Character

Paruz, who has lived in Astoria for 13 years, borrowed a saw from her landlady to get her start.
“It was a rusty saw and it only had a few notes,” she said. “So I went out and purchased a new saw and it had almost two octaves.”
Now she has many, many different kinds of saws that she uses to play. She even has one saw that is so rare very few people know it exists – it is from the beginning of the 20th century when saw playing was popular in vaudeville acts. This particular saw was only made between 1921 and the beginning of World War II. “It is a really fancy saw,” she said.
Paruz got her start performing at the local Salvation Army. At the time its community center was having some financial hardships, they had no funds to provide people with anything, so Paruz volunteered to perform for them.
“They liked it so much they asked me to come back and they recommended me for other senior centers and I started performing for all these senior citizens,” she said.
And so her career was born.
Now, in Astoria, Paruz holds whole gatherings of saw players at her house.

Most Outrageous Act

The most unique performance Paruz said she ever took part in was in Paris at a famous cemetery where a number of famous people are buried, including the vocalist Edith Pilaf, one of her favorite artists.
“I played at this big cemetery, I did a tribute to Edith Pilaf there,” she said. “I played it for her on her grave, it was a very touching moment, it was a ceremony that people were watching, people had tears in their eyes, it was very moving.”

— Peter Gelling