August 3, 2009
The following is a slightly extended version of Second Concert, that appeared in the June publication of the new magazine Listen: Life with Classical Music.
Our string quartet played a concert at Emory University in March of this year. Whenever I’m in Atlanta, I stay with my friends, Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, ministers who run The Open Door Community, a homeless shelter in the city. They put me up in Open Door’s simple but welcoming guest quarters. Ed invited me to lunch at the shelter and asked whether I would play something beforehand. When I showed up, everyone—Murphy, Ed, the staff, and a number of homeless people were already seated at tables that formed a large square in the dining room. Ed introduced me eloquently, quoting from both Hebrew scripture and Dostoyevsky, and then I played a movement from a Bach Partita for solo violin. Following a round of applause, we all held hands while some thanked me for my musical offering and others offered prayers for loved ones in difficulty. As a performance, it was unlike any other I had ever given in my life.
The occasion was significant in another way. Murphy had just emerged from a round of chemotherapy treatments for a cancer the doctors had almost poetically termed “indolent lymphoma.” That very day, they had finally judged Murphy’s immune system strong enough for her to not only eat with others for the first time in weeks, but also to attend our quartet concert that evening. I can only begin to imagine how she felt!
That night the Guarneri String Quartet played at Emory. The quartet is retiring at the end of this season and this Atlanta concert was to be the last of many we have given in the area over the past years. The audience, which included many passionate chamber-music lovers who have listened to us for decades, gave us a standing ovation. Leaving Atlanta the next day, I thought about the two concerts I had just given: one for people relatively well off and knowledgeable about music, the other for the homeless, many of whom have likely never been inside a concert hall. As gratifying as it was to receive such a heartwarming response for the Guarneri concert, I couldn’t help wondering about my other audience, men and women whose primary concern had to be where their next meal was coming from. Had they also been affected by the music they had heard or were the notes that came out of my violin irrelevant to their lives?
The next day, I received an e-mail from Ed:
Yesterday morning I was spending a little time with C.H. He is 45, lives in the house, and is an African American. He has been big in the drug culture and spent a number of years in prison.
He told me that he had never been that close to a violin before. He has seen them on TV, but not in person. He said he was very surprised and unprepared by how deeply he was moved by the music. He was puzzled and pleased.
Thank you for what you give to others. In this instance, thank you for giving a marginalized man an insight and feeling he had never had before. You and Bach brought him joy and a newness.
Peace and justice to you.
Ed Nuessner Loring
Open Door Community
Sign up to receive new stories straight to your inbox!
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am most struck by the distance between us all culturally. And how vastly different our response to a situation may be, depending upon our previous exposure, our circumstance.
For whatever reason, on reading your experience at the shelter and the note you received from your friend, I felt tears pool ….in my heart. I am most impressed with both your offering as well as that of your friends who run the shelter.
And all of this while listening to the Dvorak
My best wishes to you in your journey. I am so glad to be subscribing to your blog.
Thanks very much for sharing that wonderful experience. Your contribution to all of us is greatly appreciated. You and the other Guarnerians have made a real difference in the world.
We truly hope that you will have many more years of enjoyment as you share your musical genius with the world.
Nancy and Dick Blieden
Dear Mr. Steinhardt,
It was a great honor to meet you at Marlboro this past Saturday evening, and to have a chance to tell you about Shelter Music Boston. I hope there will be a day when you’ll happen to be in Boston, have a few minutes free, and can come with me to play in one of the shelters I play in regularly. I know this is a dream, but Shelter Music Boston was also a dream of mine, and now it is a fully functioning tiny yet growing nonprofit dedicated to performing chamber music in the shelters. So, anything is possible!
If you have 8 minutes to spend watching the Shelter Music Boston video,
you’ll have a visit inside the shelter with me and my two colleagues, you’ll hear the comments of shelter guests and staff and see what I’m up to. I look forward to meeting you again. Regards, Julie Leven
Leave a Comment*/