Musical Saw Players Reactions to the 2008 Festival

Dear Natalia,
It has been 1 1/2 weeks since the saw festival and I’m still excited about having attended it and about participating in the group songs. The day with all its activities was more than I expected. Thank you for putting the festival together. You did an excellent job. Your accompaniment with the vocalist and the musicians in the first part of the program was truly inspiring and is an example of what can be accomplished with the saw. Each of the participants gave me some insight about style of playing and the type of songs that I might attempt to play. I enjoyed talking with other players about their saws, their bows, their cases, their rosins, their books, etc. Each was willing to share information and seemed excited talking about all of that. Although i was unable to stay until the workshop ended, I gained valuable information on how to play better and get improved sound for my saw with using less bow action. Her suggestions for me were useable and have given an immediate positive impact on my playing.
Thank you again for a wonderful day. I will plan to attend again next year.
Best wishes,
Stewart W.
Lebanon, PA


hi Natalia……………this is Paul….met you at the festival and played Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring…………………….thanks for a great experience….i realize i am definitely self-taught……….thank you very much; Natalia. Happy Sawing; my friend,
paul k./northeast PA


BRAVO!!! The Festival was both entertaining and inspiring. What a wonderful atmosphere. The church really expressed the beauty of the saw as a musical instrument.
You really did a wonderful job.
Bob H.
Cinnaminson, NJ


Hey Natalia,
Thanx again for going to all the hard work and effort for putting on this festival. It was so great to finally meet you in person and also be amongst the other saw players. It was a real treat to meet a few like minded players and just talk saw stuff and compare notes with people who have the peculiar interest of the musical saw. I was really impressed at the level of playing by a lot of people and it was cool to see how other people approach it.
I really enjoyed all of your performances especially the collaborations with Scott but I have to admit a weakness for that Satie piece you did. With the handbells it was really enchanting.
I appreciate your kind words about my solo part. I can’t say I’m completely satisfied with what I did but I’m glad I did it. It gave me something to think about.
And thanx also for send the pictures. I guess I need to learn to smile while I’m playing.
We just got home from New York yesterday evening . We drove back by way of friends and relatives in Virginia and North Carolina. After a week and a half of pounding the pavement in New York and sleeping in strange beds followed by three days of driving we were beat. Then I had practice tonight with my band. We have a show this Saturday. So I haven’t had time or energy to download..or is it upload the pictures I took at the fest but they will be coming your way soon.
Thanx once again for the festival,
terry “SawTrouble” b.


Hi Natalia:
It was a work of art. I posted a review in my blog. Here’s part:
“BTW, the Saw Festival was a GAS!!! The audience was relatively large for something like this (and responsive), Natalia Paruz (AND Scott Munson) put on a musically interesting and professional event, and I met a bunch of very interesting, eccentric “Sawists” (but with my head, I’ll never remember their names, so if we talked and you see this, drop me a line.)” BTW, I heard the 5th Annual chorus of saws on Youtube, playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and I can’t wait until somebody posts the 6th Annual so I can compare them! I did speak to the guy who was recording the concert and he said that he would give me a copy of my performance. I would gladly reimburse him for a record of my performance, (lame as it was). Happy sawing!!! Talk to ya…. Doc George


Dear Natalia:
This was my first musical saw festival and it was great! It was great because of your super planning and skills of communication. Your directions from Oakland, New Jersey were excellent and I found a parking space only one block from the church. And, the most exciting part was that I met, after 25 years, my first and only musical saw teacher, Moses. Moses looked well and he still plays a great saw. Moses only gave me one lesson but it started me on an enjoyable musical saw past-time. Now, I should take a few lessons from a New Jersey saw player to pick up some sawing techniques. After observing players like Moses , Irving, Nick, and yourself, i am now committed to improving my playing. Again, Natalia, you are to be commended for your effort and coordination in bringing together some great saw players for all of us to enjoy. You and others have encouraged and motivated us to continue playing and improve. Many thanks and God Bless You.
Roger M.
P.S. Your articles and pictures in the Saw Players News has helped me to learn, not only about great saw players throughout the world, but important techniques and hints on how to play. Thanks again.


Dear Natalia,
It was fun to see you again today – thanks again for all you do. I heard some comments similar to what I was thinking last year – that because the saw is mostly a self-taught instrument, an occasion like this is one of the only ways many of us see how other people play and negotiate some of the playing “challenges”. It’s fun and instructive to see how others approach the same situations differently, but successfully.
By the way, I arrived late, so I didn’t hear any “beforehand” comments or instructions (I hope it never takes me 2 1/2 hours to get to Astoria again…), and I forgot to ask later about the status of the e-book you mentioned earlier in the season. How is the progress on that? One more thing: I was asking Francoise about something, and I thought I’d ask you also. I’ve been playing around with trying to minimize bow-noise, and one of the things that works for me sometimes is to bow “at speed” (to do a quick bowstroke on the already-vibrating saw) and also use the edge of the bow hairs. Have you worked on this at all and found success? Francoise was saying that it also helps to “play out” and that this can deaccentuate the bow noise in comparison to the full sound. I also prefer a full sound, like in singing, so maybe that is also helping me at the times I’ve been successful in keeping the noise down. What do you think about it all?
Thanks always,
Gregory N.

Non-Musical Saw Players Participants:

I enjoyed the festival – must say, have never been involved in anything quite like it!
hope yu have a great summer!!!!!
Ilya S.
soprano singer


Natalia and Scott,
    I wanted to thank you again for being such wonderful and supportive colleagues! I had a great time performing with you, and look forward to hearing more performances and more new music.
I hope you’ve been having a wonderful and interesting summer, and that all left arms are back to full working order. I’ll keep an ear out for you, and I wish you all the best.
bariton singer

Reaction of a person in the audience (not a musical saw player):
WFMU Radio DJ Brownwyn’s list of best 10 things of 2008 featured the NYC Musical Saw Festival as number 2!
“The NYC Musical Saw Festival. I’ll say it again: Hearing Satie’s ‘Gymnopedie’ played by a musical saw and a handbell choir was one of the highpoints of my life. Seriously. The piece for musical saw and Japanese music box by Scott R. Munson was outstanding, too. ”

Musical Saw Festival 2008 in the News

Queens Gazette
July 30th, 2008

Musical Saw Festival Held In Astoria

Trinity Handbell Choir with Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz.

For the past six years, in July, afficionados of the musical saw come out for the annual NYC Musical Saw Festival.

Thirty musical saw players came from as far away as Germany, Canada, Georgia, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York to Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Island City. WFMU Radio DJ Bronwyn C said, “[This was] the concert of the summer. The idea of a musical saw backed up by a handbell choir makes the top of my head blow off”.

The festival featured an eclectic mix of sonic sounds. A trio of New York City saw players opened the festival with a hymn accompanied by organist Judy Dimino. The festival’s founder and director, Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, presented the educational segment of the festival, featuring the musical saw as an ensemble instrument in Donizetti’s opera “Lucia di Lammermoor”, with singer Ilya Speranza and pianist Arielle Levioff artistic director of the Queens Goliard ensemble, followed by a contemporary piece by Queens composer Scott R. Munson, with Seth Gilman, baritone.

“Chorus of the Saws”, consisting of 30 saw players led by Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz.

The Trinity Handbell Choir, directed by Richard Walker, joined Paruz in a rendition of Satie’s “Gymnopedie” followed by the world premiere of a piece for musical saw and Japanese music box by composer Scott R. Munson. Paruz played an amplified old music box which played a traditional Japanese koto song, weaving the sound of the musical saw along the decelerating melody of the music box.

A succession of saw players followed, each presenting music of different styles, from classical to blues, gospel, folk, contemporary and avant-guard. The audience got to witness the use of different types of saws, played in different techniques, some with bows or mallets and others using electronic effects. The “Chorus of the Saws”, which featured all 30 saw players playing together, received a standing ovation.

Different artists also treated the audience to an art exhibit featuring many paintings, all depicting the musical saw. Joe Pecknic, a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, took photos of the exhibited artwork. Of particular interest an oscillating fan blowing air into bottles creating the effect of a mysterious jug band accompanied a video installation by Jamie Isenstine, featuring a headless magician playing the saw. A clown and vaudevillian act also played saws.

The festival, which was made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, concluded with a workshop. New Jersey saw player Gregory Newton said, “Because the saw is mostly a self-taught instrument, an occasion like this is one of the only ways many of us see how other people play and negotiate some of the playing challenges. It’s fun and instructive to see how others approach the same situations differently, but successfully.” Bob Heliger, also from New Jersey, said, “The festival was both entertaining and inspiring. What a wonderful atmosphere. The church really expressed the beauty of the saw as a musical instrument.” Associated Press TV filmed the festival for worldwide broadcast.

Musical Saw Festival 2008

Musical Saw Convention 2007
When: Saturday, July 5th, 2008, 2pm
Where: Trinity Church, 31-18 37th Street (37th Street at 31st Avenue), Astoria, NY

How to get there:
* ‘R’ subway train to Queens: Get off at the Steinway St, Station. Exit near intersection of Broadway and Steinway Street. Walk (2 blocks) west on Broadway towards 38th street. Turn right onto 37th St. Church is at the end of the block.
* ‘N’ or ‘W’ subway train to Queens: Get off at the ‘Broadway’ stop. Walk on Broadway to 37th street (6 blocks). Turn left onto 37th street. Church is at the end of the block.

Admission: $10

What: This is the 6th year Paruz is organizing the Musical Saw Festival in Queens. The festival brings together musical saw players from all over NYC, the US and abroad. Astoria has become a pilgrimage place for saw players from such far away countries as China, Japan, India and Canada. The festival enables saw players to meet other saw players and hear them play, perform solos and jam with others, learn about different types of saws and discover different techniques of playing – all in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. The festival is open to the public at large who can learn about the musical saw and enjoy a unique concert featuring the angelic sounds of the musical saw. Another part of the festival is an art exhibit featuring the musical saw.

NATALIA ‘SAW LADY’ PARUZ, founder & organizer of the Musical Saw Festival, will present the musical saw as an ensemble instrument, with participation of 2 singers, a pianist, an organist and a handbell choir

* World premier of a new composition for the musical saw by composer Scott R. Munson, commissioned for the Musical Saw Festival

* A musical saw art exhibit including paintings and a video art installation

* Solos by saw players from around the world

* The ‘Chorus of the Saws’ (all participating musical saw players playing together, accompanied by church organ and piano);

* Guest of honor NICK BARDACH, a musical saw player from Germany, will give a presentation spoofing classical music with the saw:
NICHOLAS BARDACH studied timpani and percussion in Toronto/Canada, Brussels/Belgium and Cologne/Germany. Associate principal timpanist and percussionist of the Bochum Symphony Orchestra since 1978 and teacher of percussion at the State Music Academy in Aachen. (Almost) self-taught to play the musical saw (learning by doing) initially through contacts with contemporary music.
He is in high demand in symphonic orchestras as a specialist for musical saw. He has performed in such orchestras as NDR Radio Orchestra Hamburg, Philharmonisches Orchester Essen, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, WDR-Radio-Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Musikfabrik-NRW, Duisburger Sinfoniker and under such conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Hans Zender, Leif Segerstam, Johannes Kalitzke, Steven Sloane, Roland Kluttig.
Meanwhile he has a complete show of comic arrangements which ridicule “classical music” and “classical musicians”. His repertoire also includes original works for musical saw of a more serious nature, not only contemporary music but original compositions from pre-war France. Composers have written specially for him and his instrument. He has performed extensively in western Germany and has appeared on Pro-7 German television.

Non musical saw musicians participating in the festival:

ILYA SPERANZA (soprano) is a graduate of The New England Conservatory and The Juilliard School. She recently appeared in the world premiere of Robert Kapilow’s New Moon with the New Jersey State Opera in which she sang the role of the “Royal Mathematician” and “Barbara de la Guerra” in Victor Herbert’s only opera, Natoma at the White Barn Theater in Westport, CT.
Ms. Speranza created the title role in Seymour Barab’s opera Ondine for The Center for Contemporary Opera in New York City and sang “Marenka” in Smetana’s Bartered Bride with The State Repertory Opera of New Jersey. She has also toured with the New York City Opera National Company singing “Frasquita” in Bizet’s Carmen.
Other regional appearances include “Liu” (Turandot) and “Frasquita”, both with the Cincinnati Opera, “Elisetta” (Il Matrimonio Segreto) with Berkshire Opera and “Naiade” (Ariadne auf Naxos) with Long Beach Opera.
She has appeared as a featured soloist with the Lake Charles and Alexandria Symphony Orchestras, the Summit Symphony, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, Bucks County Symphony and Brookhaven Choral Society.
Her most recent performances include a recital of American and German music at the Baroque Concert Hall in Vienna’s Altes Rauthaus and the world premiere of a new American Opera, “A.F.R.A.I.D.” at the New York Fringe Festival.

ARIELLE LEVIOFF (pianist) ia a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, has appeared as a soloist at Bargemusic in Brooklyn, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. She also has performed at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and the French Embassy in Washington D.C. A past participant at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France, Ms. Levioff is especially known for her creative programming and specialization in the French piano repertoire of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She is the artistic director of Goliard Concerts, an organization based in Astoria, Queens which includes a full concert series each season, an annual Southeastern tour, as well as numerous educational programs and community outreach concerts. Ms. Levioff is currently on the faculty of the 92nd Street Y. She is a Yamaha artist.

SETH GILMAN (baritone) is currently freelancing in New York City, and frequently performs within the new and early music communities there. A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Mannes College of Music, he lists among his teachers Stephen Lusmann, Susan Ormont, Arthur Levy, and Tom Goodheart.
Twice an alumnus of the Amherst Early Music Festival, in 2007 Mr. Gilman sang the role of Giove in Cavalli’s La Calisto and performed two roles in Campra’s L’Europe Galante in 2006. Other mainstage roles have included Chato in La Purpura de la Rosa, Liberto in the University of Michigan’s production of L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Starveling in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Past festivals at which Mr. Gilman has performed include The Aspen Music Festival, Opera Lirica di Orvieto, the Seagle Music Colony, and the Caramoor Festival Young Artists’ Program. Also experienced in operetta through engagements and recordings with the Comic Opera Guild of Ann Arbor, he can be heard in recordings supported by the Victor Herbert Society. In 2005, Seth sang the premiere of Osnat Netzer’s Three Animal Songs, and of Lin Mu-Xuan’s Swimming the Hellespont zhi San this April in Boston. He looks forward to debuting with his historical instrument and vocal ensemble, Ex Temporis, in the fall, a concert, which will include new works by Eric Shanfield, among others.

Christian Nagel (pianist) born in Kiel, Germany, started playing the piano at the age of five. At the renowned Folkwang Music College he studied piano with Catherine Vickers and music theory with Wolfgang Grandjean. Since his praised final exam in 1999, he has been working as a freelance pianist, accompanist, choir master, conductor, composer and improvisor in all kinds of musical genres ranging from the classical to contemporary, from jazz to Gospel music.
Christian Nagel has been performing in many countries including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the USA, Hawaii, England, France and Austria.

TRINITY HANDBELL CHOIR, directed by Richard Walker

JUDY DIMINO (organist) is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, serving in the choir, the handbell choir, as an assisting minister, and as a substitute organist. Judy is a graduate of Queens College, now known as the Aaron Copland School of Music, with a B.A. in Music Education.
Judy was a pianist for the Committee Of Police Societies Chorus and Runner-Up in the International Piano Recording Competition 1982 She received the Presiding Bishop’s Certificate of Church Music from the Leadership Program for Musicians at The Mercer School of Theology in Garden City, Long Island in 2004. Judy has taught piano, guitar and accordion in various locations in the Queens area. Judy recently received a Certificate in Church Music from Westminster Conservatory, Princeton, New Jersey.

The art exhibition includes art work by:

Jamie Isenstein – video installation titled ‘Acéphal Magical’
Heidi Younger, Zina Saunders, Young Joo, Aaron Porter, Jamie Isenstein – paintings

video stills

Musical saw players wishing to participate:
If you would like to participate as a saw player or as a member of the audience, please send me your name, e-mail address and whether you are a saw player or not.

History of the NYC Musical Saw Festival:
Past guests of honor at the Musical Saw Festival:
A tradition which has evolved at the Musical Saw Festival over the years is that the sawist traveling the farthest in order to attend is considered the ‘guest of honor’.
2003 Musical Saw Festival – Mr. Weiss, musical saw player from California
2004 Musical Saw Festival – Mr. Kawagoochi, musical saw player from Japan
2005 Musical Saw Festival – Mr. Minden, musical saw player from Canada
2006 Musical Saw Festival – Mr. Gershom, musical saw player from India
2007 Musical Saw Festival – Mr. Chen, musical saw player from China

Video of part of the “Chorus of the Saws” – a jam-session like (non-rehearsed) performance where all the musical saw players participating in the Musical Saw Festival play together:

Contact the organizer of the Musical Saw Festival:

Please send an e-mail with the subject line of ‘Musical Saw Festival’ to: SawLady at SawLady dot com

The NYC Musical Saw Festival is made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.