The Saw Lady
Natalia Paruz: The Saw Lady has many stories about the people she has met while playing the saw in the New York City subway. She has played plenty of more prestigious gigs, among them playing with the Israel Philharmonic and Royal Air Moroccan Symphony Orchestra, plus numerous television and radio appearances. And even though her saw playing can be heard on film soundtracks, and on recordings from artists such as John Hiatt, she says she will never give up playing in the New York City subway.
“The subway is my favorite venue to perform at because there is a lot of freedom. There is no one that you need to answer to and you are free to show up whenever you want. You are free to play whatever you want to,” she says, adding that the subway’s curved cavernous architecture creates natural reverb and amplification to make it acoustically “better than Carnegie Hall.”
But, the main reason Natalia Paruz loves playing the subway is the interaction with the people. “There is magic in playing in the subway,” she says. “The audience is right there with you. When you play on a stage, it feels as if there is a glass wall between you and them. When you are in a public space, people come to you; they talk to you. You see the transformation of expression on their faces as they listen to you. Through the music you bring people out of their glass bubbles and you lure them into a communal experience with you and with other people around. There is magic to it that I find addictive.”
“I have been playing the musical saw in the NYC subway for many years and I have many stories but this is my favorite,” recounts Paruz. “While playing at the Times Square subway station, a blind man joined a group of passersby gathered around me. The blind man’s face lit up to the sound of my music. It was clear he loved it. A lady from the crowd, unrelated to the blind man, saw his joy. She came over to me, bought one of my CDs, went over to the blind man, put the CD in his hand and said, ‘This is the music you are hearing now. This is for you,’ And she gave it to the blind man! For me, to think that in a small way, my music was the impetus for such an amazing, selfless, beautiful act of kindness between two strangers—priceless!”