We know that sometimes it helps to just get it out. The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation will collect stories submitted via this web site.We suggest you do not use real names or contact information since this is not a secure page on the web site.The story can be about you, your loved one, someone afflicted with mental illness or caregivers.
The story should be 500 words or less. NAAF reserves the non-exclusive right to re-publish your story either on this web site or in a book.
The first best step to Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness is to talk about it.
When Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles’ skid row, he finds it impossible to walk away. At first, he is drawn by the opportunity to crank out another column for the Los Angeles Times, just one more item on an ever-growing to-do list: “Violin Man.” But what Lopez begins to unearth about the mysterious street musician leaves an indelible impression.
More than thirty years earlier, Ayers had been a promising classical bass student at Juilliard—ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans—until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by a mental breakdown. When Lopez finds him, Ayers is alone, suspicious of everyone, and deeply troubled, but glimmers of that brilliance are still there.
From an impromptu concert of Beethoven’s 8th in the Second Street tunnel to Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites on Skid Row, the two men learn to communicate through Ayers’ music. Lopez collects donated violins, a cello, even a stand-up bass and a piano with the hope that Ayers can be swayed to move off the streets where every day threatens his well-being. Their bond takes tortuous turns as Lopez imagines he can change Ayers’ life—finding him lodging, reconnecting him with his family, taking him to Disney Concert Hall to meet the great YoYoMa, a former Juilliard classmate. For each triumph, there is a crashing disappointment, yet neither man gives up. And though it’s Ayers he initially sets out to save, Lopez finds that his own life is profoundly changed. By turns gripping, moving, and inspiring, Nathaniel’s story is about unwavering commitment, artistic devotion, and the transformative magic of music.
Excerpt from The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, by Steve Lopez