This is the story of Mr. Ayers (pronounced “airs”) and Mr. Lopez, the musician and the writer.
It’s “Mr.” because that’s what Mr. Ayers mother taught him when he was young, and that’s how he honors (shows respect to) her today, almost 60 years later.
Mr. Ayers is an African-American musician. When he was 19 years old, he left his home in Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the Julliard School, one of the best music schools in the world. He was filled with hopes and dreams for a future filled with music. His main instrument is the bass (the largest string instrument in an orchestra), but he also plays several others, including the violin, cello, trumpet, and flute.
Mr. Lopez is a popular writer for the Los Angeles Times. Twice a week he writes a column (a special story or article) called Points West. Many of his columns are human interest stories – inspiring (encouraging) stories about people. That’s how I met Mr. Ayers.
Mr. Lopez’ story about Mr. Ayers inspires me, but it makes me cry, at least a little. I’m a musician, too, so I can identify with Mr. Ayers in many ways. But in other ways, Mr. Ayers and I are very different. You see, while Mr. Ayers was at Julliard, he had a mental breakdown (became very depressed, anxious). His condition became worse and worse until he ended up (finally arrived) in Los Angeles, a street person living under a freeway bridge. That’s where Mr. Lopez met Mr. Ayers – on the streets of Los Angeles – and became his friend.
I’ve been following the story of Mr. Ayers in Mr. Lopez’ column for five years. It’s one of the happiest stories I’ve read. And, at the same time, one of the saddest. It’s about dreams, and broken dreams, and triumph (success) over broken dreams. It’s musical and, in many ways, magical.
Many people have become acquainted with Mr. Ayers from Mr. Lopez’ columns. And many of them have reached out (given help) to him. Someone found an inexpensive (not expensive) room for him to live in. He has gotten to know members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (professional orchestra). Some of them give him free music lessons. And others are helping him record a CD.
Today Mr. Ayers still plays his cello on the streets of Los Angeles. His illness seems to be getting better, but it may never be cured (go away completely). He may never accomplish the dreams he had when was 19, but his life is better than it was a few years ago, thanks to his friend, the writer, Mr. Lopez.
If you’d like to learn more about the story of Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez, there are several things you can do:
- Watch the 60 Minutes (a well-known and popular weekly TV news program on Sunday evening) story about Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez.
- Read Mr. Lopez’ stories about Mr. Ayers in the Los Angeles Times.
- Read Mr. Lopez’ book about his experience with Mr. Ayers. It’s called The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music.
A final note: Mr. Ayers’ sister, Jennifer, has started a foundation (an organization created for a special purpose) called the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation. Its purpose is to help musicians and other artists who are mentally ill.
Warren Ediger – student of many things; ESL teacher/tutor; musician; husband and father; and creator of successfulenglish.com.