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Young Musician's WTC Contribution

19 Sep 01 - 09:29 PM (#554498)
Subject: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Uncle_DaveO

Today I got a copy of an long e-mail from a talented young violinist whom I know, William Harvey, a student at Juilliard. This was so affecting that I knew many here would appreciate reading it. I have not changed it except to break it into some paragraphs to make it easier to read. ----

Playing for the Fighting 69th Monday, Sept. 17

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 sightread 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 first-hand 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 U.S. 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, 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) 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

19 Sep 01 - 09:33 PM (#554499)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)


19 Sep 01 - 09:43 PM (#554506)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: 2 in harmony

Thanks for sharing your friend's letter. It is amazing & inspiring to learn of the many ways people have found to reach out. Harvey really helped. I've found the helping can sometimes do more for the helper. We all need to keep going... we don't know what will be next or when. It's difficult not to just cry sometimes.

19 Sep 01 - 09:55 PM (#554517)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Amos

Here I had thought I was out of tears from this awful slice of time; and your young friend found a few I ha dmissed.

Thanks, DaveO, and thanks, young William Harvey -- a fine name to start a life with, I might add!!


19 Sep 01 - 10:02 PM (#554520)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

Absolutely beautiful...thank you for sharing.

Sincerely, Gargoyle

19 Sep 01 - 10:09 PM (#554527)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: catspaw49 is about right......

Thanks Dave.


19 Sep 01 - 10:43 PM (#554553)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Uncle_DaveO

Incidentally, you might try to remember that name, William Harvey. My own expectation is that he will be a big name on the concert circuit in not too many years.

Dave Oesterreich

20 Sep 01 - 10:33 PM (#555392)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution

A beautiful story. Thanks. There are so many each day. Makes me proud to be a New Yorker.

21 Sep 01 - 08:31 PM (#556260)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Gloredhel

beautiful. thanks. wow. speechless.

23 Sep 01 - 01:48 AM (#556861)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: katlaughing

Wow, thanks so much for sharing that, Dave. Incredible, what a wonderful young man.


23 Sep 01 - 11:20 AM (#557010)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Uncle_DaveO

He is. At 18 years of age, he already has a pretty good string of awards, and a pretty extensive performance history. His brother Theodore, a fine cellist, is also studying at Juilliard.

Dave Oesterreich

23 Sep 01 - 12:25 PM (#557048)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Tinker



24 Sep 01 - 01:26 AM (#557477)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Susan from California

Thanks for that. I managed one day w/out tears last week, now I'm hoping for another one next week, and eventually two days in a row, and then three....

04 Sep 11 - 03:20 PM (#3218150)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: GUEST,Uncle_DaveO

Coming up on the ten-year observance of 9/11, it
occurs to me that a refreshing of this thread is
appropriate, so here it is.

Dave Oesterreich

04 Sep 11 - 04:01 PM (#3218171)
Subject: RE: Young Musician's WTC Contribution
From: Crowhugger

Thanks Dave. I missed this thread first time around, being busy with my dying mother in the weeks surrounding that fateful event. What an experience he shared with those people! I wondered what he's up to these days... I found this article as well as this link. The 2nd also says he is one of the founders of Cultures In Harmony. Still a pretty cool kid. Here's his blog.