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Music at the New York Armory

We received this from a cousin,  who is a professor at the College of Library 
and Information Science, University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 29208.  A 
very toughing story.

Rufus and Betty Sinclair 


Some of you may know William Harvey, a gifted violinist from Indianapolis, 
who is now a freshman at the Juilliard School in New York City.  This is his 
moving and exceptional story:

Yesterday I had probably the most incredible and moving experience of my 
life.  Juilliard organized a quartet to go play at the Armory.  The Armory is 
a huge military building where families of people missing from Tuesday's 
disaster go to wait for news of their loved ones.  Entering the building was 
very difficult emotionally, because the entire building (the size of a city 
block) was covered with missing posters.  Thousands of posters, spread out up 
to eight feet above the ground, each featuring a different, smiling, face.

I made my way into the huge central room and found my Juilliard buddies.  For 
two hours we sight-read quartets (with only three people)!  And I don't think 
I will soon forget the grief counselor from the Connecticut State Police who 
listened the entire time, or the woman who listened only to "Memory" from 
Cats, crying the whole time.
At 7, the other two players had to leave; they had been playing at the Armory 
since 1 and simply couldn't play any more.  I volunteered to stay and play 
solo, since I had just got there.  I soon realized that the evening had just 
begun for me: a man in fatigues who introduced himself as Sergeant Major 
asked me if I'd mind playing for his soldiers as they came back from digging 
through the rubble at Ground Zero.  Masseuses had volunteered to give his men 
massages, he said, and he didn't think anything would be more soothing than 
getting a massage and listening to violin music at the same time.

So at 9:00 p.m., I headed up to the second floor as the first men were 
arriving.  From then until 11:30, I played everything I could do for memory:  
Bach B Minor Partita, Tchaik.  Concerto, Dvorak Concerto, Paganini Caprices 1 
and 17, Vivaldi Winter and Spring, Theme from Schindler's List, Tchaik.  
Melodie, Meditation from Thais, Amazing Grace, My Country 'Tis of Thee, 
Turkey in the Straw, Bile Them Cabbages Down.  Never have I played for a more 
grateful audience.  Somehow it didn't matter that by the end, my intonation 
was shot and I had no bow control.  I would have lost any competition I was 
playing in, but it didn't matter.  The men would come up the stairs in full 
gear, remove their helmets, look at me, and smile.

At 11:20, I was introduced to Col.  Slack, head of the division.  After 
thanking me, he said to his friends, "Boy, today was the toughest day yet.  I 
made the mistake of going back into the pit, and I'll never do that again."  
Eager to hear a firsthand account, I asked, "What did you see?" He stopped, 
swallowed hard, and said, "What you'd expect to see."  

The Colonel stood there as I played a lengthy rendition of Amazing Grace 
which he claimed was the best he'd ever heard.  By this time it was 11:30, 
and I didn't think I could play anymore.  I asked Sergeant Major if it would 
be appropriate if I played the National Anthem.  He shouted above the chaos 
of the milling soldiers to call them to attention, and I played the National 
Anthem as the 300 men of the 69th Division saluted an invisible flag.  

After shaking a few hands and packing up, I was prepared to leave when one of 
the privates accosted me and told me the Colonel wanted to see me again.  He 
took me down to the War Room, but we couldn't find the Colonel, so he gave me 
a tour of the War Room.  It turns out that the division I played for is the 
Famous Fighting Sixty-ninth, the most decorated division in the US Army.  He 
pointed out a letter from Abraham Lincoln offering his condolences after the 
Battle of Antietam...the 69th suffered the most casualties of any division at 
that historic battle.  Finally, we located the Colonel.  After thanking me 
again, he presented me with the coin of the regiment.  "We only give these to 
someone who's done something special for the 69th," he informed me.  He 
called over the division's historian to tell me the significance of all the 
symbols on the coin.

As I rode the taxi back to Juilliard...free, of course, since taxi service is 
free in New York right now...I was numb.  Not only was this evening the 
proudest I've ever felt to be an American, it was my most meaningful as a 
musician and a person as well.  At Juilliard, kids are hypercritical of each 
other and very competitive.  The teachers expect, and in most cases get, 
technical perfection.  But this wasn't about that.
The soldiers didn't care that I had so many memory slips I lost count.  They 
didn't care that when I forgot how the second movement of the Tchaik went, I 
had to come up with my own insipid improvisation until I somehow (and I still 
don't know how) I got to a cadence.  I've never seen a more appreciative 
audience, and I've never understood so fully what it means to communicate 
music to other people.  And how did it change me as a person?

Let's just say that, next time I want to get into a petty argument about 
whether Richter or Horowitz was better, I'll remember that when I asked the 
Colonel to describe the pit formed by the tumbling of the Towers, he 
couldn't.  Words only go so far, and even music can only go a little further 
from there.

Your friend, William Harvey