Curtis graduate Pavel Ilyashov, now playing in the Virginia Symphony, shares this revelatory moment with his friends and ours:
True story that just happened tonight.
I was leaving GSA after a day of teaching. As I pulled out of the parking garage, I saw a tall, very slender man who was holding a sign “Homeless, Anything Helps”. He was dressed very well, but the clothing had clearly seen better days. We inadvertently made eye contact. There was such sadness and sincerity in his eyes, I couldn’t stop myself.
I pulled out my wallet. The only cash I had was a $5 bill and I handed it to him. He took it with great appreciation and looked at me again. Homeless man: “Did you play the violin at Cafe Stella on NYE by any chance?”
Me: “Yes, I play there quite often. What a great place to bring music to the community. Been a while… I’ve struggled with an injury…”
HM: “I was there. I was on my way to a shelter, but when I saw you and your guitar friend, I snuck in. I used to be a regular there when I had money, but it has been a tough year. I made two horrible decisions. As result, I lost everything. My family, home, and business. I have nothing now, but hearing your music (he proceeded to name all the pieces we played, including the ones that I have long forgotten. After all, we just sight-read them for fun) made me forget the cold and the hunger.”
Suddenly he handed me the $5 bill I gave him and pulled every other dollar out of his pocket and shoved it to me through the car window. H.M. “Thank you… you gave me peace that night and made me forget that I’m lost. I am in your debt. I wish I could give you more.” I was speechless. The green arrow turned, the cars behind me honked like mad and I had to move it… with a homeless man’s money. His, was perhaps the greatest compliment I have ever gotten and a reminder that music can heal just about all. I will never forget this evening.