Musical Saw Festival 2010 in the News

The 2010 Musical Saw Festival was reported on in the ‘Astoria Times’ newspaper, with photo on the FRONT PAGE:

Musical saw festival in Astoria Times

Making music with a saw and violin bow may sound like a niche interest, but the NYC Musical Saw Festival at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria Saturday proved it is one with an international appeal that only seems to be growing.
Festival organizer Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, a 17-year saw player who lives in Astoria, said the event began with four musical saw players and now, eight years later, has grown to 30, with players coming from as close by as New York City to as far away as Japan.
This year also featured the debut of both a new song composed specifically for the musical saw, “Seen and Unseen” by Eyal Bat, and the debut of Paruz’s new band, Ameriklectic, which played compositions in which the musical saw is the featured instrument. Paruz said she is already planning to record with her new band and to hold next year’s festival at a larger venue.
“Astoria has sort of become a pilgrimage place for musical saw players,” Paruz said.
Paruz’s passion for the instrument, which has led her to multiple concert and media appearances from a solo in Carneige Hall to an appearance on MTV’s “Andy Milonakis Show” to NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion,” has made her a lightning rod for other fans of the instrument.
Before she became a musician, Paruz was a dancer but was hit by a car while walking on the street.
“That put an end to my dance career,” Paruz said, “and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”
When she took a trip to Europe with her parents a short time after being hit, she saw a man playing a saw, which she said was the first time she had felt excited about something since the accident. When she started playing, it began as a hobby, but her neighbors heard her playing and asked her to play for a charity function.
Word of mouth spread, first to other venues that wanted Paruz to play for them, which led to Paruz playing the musical saw and other musical instruments such as handbells professionally, then to other musical saw players. Eight years ago, a musical saw player from California contacted Paruz and wanted to come to New York to meet Paruz. She said yes, but only if the other, local musical saw players Paruz knew could meet the Californian as well.
This was the birth of the first musical saw festival. In subsequent years, more and more musical saw players wanted to meet with Paruz, and what began as meet-ups turned into an annual event that now takes all year to plan. The small theater was packed at the Hellenic center at 27-09 Crescent St.
“They just unanimously decided I should be the one to put on the festival,” she said.
Paruz said the musical saw is played by placing the handle between the legs for stability, then using the left hand to bend the blade from the tip as the right hand runs a violin bow along the non-serrated edge. The more the saw is bent, the higher the notes. Any saw can be played this way, although most saws made for music have no teeth or have teeth that are decorative and not sharpened.
“I’ve been playing for 17 years and I’ve never hurt myself,” Paruz said.
Lisa Mayer, a former Hillcrest resident who played at the festival with her husband and Kew Gardens native Sruli Dresdner, said the saw’s use as a carpenter tool and a musical instrument is one of its appeals.
“It’s utilitarian and artistic,” she said.
WooYoung Park, who came from Osaka, Japan, to play at the festival, said the sound of the musical saw is also a prime appeal.
“The sound is beautiful and unique,” she said. “It’s a free sound.”
Paruz said that for her the music has become a way for her to meet people of all ages, religions and backgrounds, in addition to sounding beautiful.
“It’s angelic and otherworldly and spiritual,” Paruz said. “It has a magic to it.”

musical saw festival in Queens Gazette

Musical Saw Festival Opens With Mayoral Proclamation

All participating 26 musical saw players playing together. Photo Harris Graber
All participating 26 musical saw players playing together.
Photo Harris Graber

The eighth annual New York City Musical Saw Festival welcomed 26 musical saw players from around the globe to the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria on August 7. A proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg was read to open the event.

Ameriklectic, a local 10-piece band, featured the musical saw (played by festival founder Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz) as the lead instrument in jazz compositions by Scott Munson. Two musical saw trios were presented at the festival, “Moscow Nights”, played by three musical saw players from Osaka, Japan. A ragtime piece by composer Eyal Bat, commissioned by the festival, with musical saw players Chelsea Winter, Sharif Vakili and Paruz, with piano accompaniment by Judy Dimino, had its world premier.

Musical saw player Paul Gherson parodied the lyrics to George Gershwin’s “Summertime”.

“Summer time, and the living is easy,

Bows are swinging, and vibrations are high…

Oh, but sawyers are few, and Natalia’s still looking,

The Carpenter’s Union she invited to try!”

Hip Hop poet Mason Granger presented a poem about the musical saw and musical saw player Doc George Hiller played his amplified musical saw attached to guitar pedals that alter the sound in various ways, making it sound like a Jimmy Hendrix guitar. A workshop where advanced musical saw players dispensed information to beginners followed the concert. At the workshop, two aspiring musical saw players drew their very first note from a saw.

Mark Grant, who has composed for the musical saw, said: “As a composer I learned a little more about the musical saw just by listening at the festival, especially to the [Eyal Bat] trio at the beginning of the program but also to other parts of the program. I was also pleased to get acquainted with Scott Munson’s work as a composer and arranger–his stuff is first class all the way, a ‘good listen’ and very well put together for the band, including the musical saw as a lead.”

“I’ve been wanting to go to the festival for five years, since I started playing the musical saw, and this is the first time I was able to be in New York City for the summer,” said one of the musical saw players.

“I liked meeting like-minded musicians from across the world and the U.S., and I learned a lot from the workshop, where we could talk freely about problems with our own playing, saws, bows, etc.,” said another. Heidi Younger, one of the painters exhibiting works at the festival, said, “I loved the festival! It was a very happy event. I am sorry I haven’t attended in previous years.”

Jeffrey Dayton, an audience member from Long Island, said, “To finally get to see what I have only read about is an experience I will never forget. I will cherish the memory for a lifetime. Every one of the performers was made to feel like they were the star of the show. No talent was too small.”

“Kudos to Queens Council on the Arts for support of the 8th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival: SawLady + gang is amazing,” Clyde Fitch, who lives near the Hellenic Cultural Center, twittered after the festival.

Three people residing in the vicinity of the Hellenic Cultural Center, where the festival took place, said they were inspired to dig into their toolboxes and try to fiddle with a saw when they returned home from the festival.

Audience members are invited to leave comments about the festival at www.MusicalSawFestival.org.

For more information about the annual New York City Musical Saw Festival, held in Astoria every summer, and to see videos from the event, visit www.MusicalSawFestival.org

musical saw festival article

NYC Musical Saw Festival
8th Annual Musical Saw Festival Held At The Hellenic Cultural Center In Astoria

Musical saw trio
Musical saw trio. Photographer: Pat Merino

The 8th annual Musical Saw Festival was held at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria. This fine art dates back to 17th century when woodcutting musicians around the world simultaneously began developing the saw as a musical instrument. In time a number of companies started manufacturing saws to cater to this part of the market.
The art form emerged in places as far away as Sweden, France and Japan; but we understand that America has emerged as the center of the art form. The Musical Saw Festival held in Astoria is the world’s largest and the following report captures some of its flavor.

Twenty-six musical saw players graced the stage of the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria, home to NYC’s 8th Annual Musical Saw Festival. Some played solo acapellas, while others were accompanied by piano, guitar, vocals and even by a four-string washbasin. ‘Amerikletic’ is a local ten piece band which includes the festival’s founder, Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz. ‘Ameriklectic’ played a few Scott Munson jazz compositions which were a huge hit.
Three musical saw players traveled from Osaka, Japan to participate in the festival. Another group, including saw players Chelsea Winter, Sharif Vikili and Natalia Paruz played a ragtime jazz piece composed by Eyal Bat which was commissioned by the festival. Judy Dimino accompanied them on the piano.

Musical saw players
All participating musical saw players. Photographer: Pat Merino

Saw musicians are not without a sense of humor. Paul Gherson provided alternative lyrics to Gershwin’s Summertime which brought chuckles from the audience. Hip Hop poet Mason Granger recited a poem he’d written about the musical saw. And Doc George Hiller played Jimmy Hendrix style tunes on his amplified saw which he has creatively attached to guitar pedals to create new sounds.

One member of the audience, Jeffrey Dayton of Long Island, remarked, “To finally see what I have only read about is an experience I will never forget. I will cherish this memory for a lifetime”. Segments from the program were broadcast by CBS and Reuters. The program received some funding from the Queens Council Of The Arts.

Reactions to the 2010 Musical Saw Festival

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of NYC, honored the Musical Saw Festival with the following (click on image to enlarge):

Mayor Bloomberg's proclamation

What musical saw players said about the 8th annual Musical Saw Festival:

Natalia, I had a GREAT time today!Thank you for doing this- I WILL be back next year (and I’d love to perform). I had such a blast at this year’s Musical Saw Festival!! I’ve been practicing the saw every day since the Fest!
Take care, Werner (MD)

Had a blast. Hope to return someday.
All the best,
Henry (CO)

All participating musical saw players
26 musical saw players participated at the 8th NYC Musical saw Festival. Photographer: Harris Graber

Hi Natalia,
just wanted to say, congratulations! I know it took so much to put the festival together, and I think it was a wonderful success. The workshop also was amazing. Thank you for all your work, and I hope you get a break now!
All best,
Tine (NY)

Hey Natalia
I wanted to thank you for organizing such a wonderful festival, we had a great time. I especially like the Ameriklectics, what wonderful compositions and arrangements!
I’m sorry that I couldn’t stay for the workshops, I’m sure there was lots of great knowledge being passed along.
I hope the festival was a success for you as well.
All the best, I’ll see you next year if not before!
Jeff (NY)

Chorus of the Saws
Musical saw players performing in the ‘Chorus of the Saws’. Photographer: Pat Merino

I had a wonderful time at the festival…I’ve been wanting to go for 5 years since I started playing and this is the first time I was able to be in NYC for the summer. You did an amazing job of putting everything together and sharing your beautiful sawing.
Caroline (NY)

Natalia,
The 8th annual saw festival was, as others, a most enjoyable day. I saw it as a day of opportunity in which we had the chance to play or to listen to others play with their diverse styles. I liked meeting like-minded musicians from across the world and the US, and I learned a lot from the workshop where we could talk freely about problems with our own playing, saws, bows, etc. Also, it was enjoyable to walk to a local restaurant there and dine with you, your husband and our saw playing friends. It was a great day! Thank you and your helpers for the efforts you put into arranging a wonderful experience. I look forward to next year’s event.
Best regards,
Stew (PA)

Thank you so much for the opportunity to get to play at the saw yesterday, and thank you for the kind compliments!
Nicole (NY)

All musical saw players playing together
‘Chorus of the Saws’ – all musical saw players playing together. Photographer: Harris Graber

Hi Natalia:
You really did an AWSOME JOB in putting everything together. I enjoyed myself immensly & Stew couldn’t get done thanking me for driving & staying for the workshop & for Dinner.
Sincerely,
Steve (PA)

Hi Natalia,
Thanks for sending me all the information re: the Saw Festival and also inviting me to attend. I also want to thank you for the specific directions you gave. I was able to ride on the train, get out and walk directly to the venue without any problems. That was terrific. It was such a great experience to be there. I had the opportunity to meet you and other Saw players. The workshop was very meaningful and helpful to me. I am sure you recognized how excited I was when I struck my first note. I will be practicing daily so that I can improve my skills on the Saw. So you can expect a few emails from me when I have questions. It was also nice meeting your husband, say hello to him.
Thanks again. Have a great day!
Floyd (WA)

I thought that the Sawfest was terriffic.
Doc George (NY)

Hi Natalia
We really enjoyed this festival and trip.
We are so happy to join you.
We met many wonderful saw players.
Your band was so cool!
That was very exciting.
Hopefully,we wanna join your festival every year.
If next year’s date has been set,please tell me.
The sooner we can get cheaper flight.
Take care,
WooYoung (Japan)

Natalia, what an honor and a joy to have been a part of the saw festival today and to have finally met you and experienced your talent in person. You are an extraordinary person, full of life, love and enthusiasm!
Thank you for creating this event. Thank you for the workshop and the chance to get some great coaching. And thank you for posing for a picture with me!
I am already looking forward to next year’s festival and any other events that may be going on in between now and then. Enjoy the rest of your summer and I look forward to the next time I see you.
Fondly,
Jeff (PA)

I had the best time 2day & can’t wait 4 next year where I will play a solo!
Jenn (NY)

It was such a wonderful experience, thank you for inviting us!
Jeffrey
the Venn Diagrams (NY)

Hi, Natalia. I hope you remember me from the festival and the workshop. I asked you to pose for a photo with me downstairs at the end of the workshop and of course you did!
I have only being playing since March 9, 2010 and was too shy and not confident enough to do a solo in August. Since the festival and the workshop, I have been playing my heart out amost every day. I have improved so dramatically that I cannot wait to register for a solo next summer. I really have YOU to thank for my inspiration…..so thank you!!!!!!!!!!!
Jeff B. (PA)

Musical saw trio
Musical saw trio. Photographer: Pat Merino

Audience reactions:

I loved it Natalia! Your festival was a very happy event. I am sorry I haven’t went sooner.
Heidi Y.

Hey Natalia! Enjoyed the festival. Had a great time yesterday. To finally get to see what I have only read about is an experience I will never forget. Living out here on the island doesn’t give me many chances to see you as much as I would like to which makes each time very special and that I will cherish it for a lifetime. You are a catalyst to a brighter future for N.Y.C. Thank you for everything.
My friend that played the saw with her father’s saw is already planning for the next saw festival. Bravo!!
Bravo Natalia!! You have performed above and beyond all expectations making everyone feel like they were the star of the show. No talent was too small. Again congratulations.
Jeffrey D.

Great Festival !! Enjoyed it very much
Pat M.

Ameriklectic
Ameriklectic – 10 piece band featuring the musical saw. Photographer: Pat Merino

Kudos to Queens Council on the Arts for support of 8th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival: SawLady + gang is amazing
Clyde F.

Hi –
I went to the Saw Festival last weekend and was really inspired to learn to play the saw. Do you have any suggestions on how to get started? The festival was awesome. I’ve seen you play a number of times in the subway and have been very moved each time. It was a great surprise to see that the Festival was taking place and just a couple of blocks from my apartment as well! Thanks for putting it on!
Best,
Charles

Musical saw players playing together
26 musical saw players performing together. Photographer: Harris Graber

Dear Natalia,
Just a word to say that I very much enjoyed the Saw Festival yesterday in Astoria. As a composer I learned a little more about the saw just by listening, especially to the trio at the beginning of the program but also to other parts of the program. I was also pleased to get acquainted with Scott’s work as a composer and arranger– his stuff is first class all the way, a “good listen” and very well put together for the band, including the saw as a lead. Bravo to both of you! (and what hard work to put the whole program on….)
Again, great fun yesterday, and nice to see you and Scott,
Cheers,
Mark G.

Hi Natalia!
just wanted to tell you how much I really appreciated the 2010 Musical Saw Festival. Thanks so much for bringing everyone together. What a wonderful day of such great SAWING!
Cheers!
– Matt

Ameriklectic
Ameriklectic – band with musical saw as the lead instrument. Photographer: Pat Merino

Reactions of musicians who participated in the Musical Saw Festival, who are not musical saw players:

Natalia and Scott,
Thank you for inviting me to participate in the wonderful concert yesterday. I’m very impressed with the high quality of music, and I am one of many who now see the musical saw as a more serious instrument. I’m looking forward to the recording and future projects with AmeriKlectic.
Rob S.

Hi, Natalia:
It was very nice to be part of this festival this year!
Amazing to see so many Saw Players at the same time.
Great for you to have all this media coverage. It’s great motivation and exposure for the Saw Festival.
Congratulations for this successful 8th Annual Saw Festival.
Thanks!
Sandra

Thank you for asking me to play!! I had a GREAT time! Congratulations
Amy

Ameriklectic
Ameriklectic band featuring the musical saw. Photographer: Pat Merino

The Musical Saw Festival was so fun today! Scott Munson’s new group Ameriklectic was amazing!
There were some really good players this year too. Very impressed with the ladies from Japan! I don’t think I ever heard Scott play before. Man his group was good!
Judy

Hey Natalia,
I had a great time at the festival Saturday, and many thanks to you for letting me do my thing on stage. If there’s an audience anywhere on Earth that poem was meant for, it was right there.
Mason G.

Hi Natalia,
I really had a great time playing at the festival.
Cynthia

Chorus of the Saws
The sound of multiple singing saws. Photographer: Pat Merino

Reactions of people who saw the Musical Saw Festival on TV:

Hey, Natalia!
I’m already gathering money so I can go and join you next year!
I saw a report in portuguese television about this year’s festival… I see it all went well! Congratulations once again!
Yours truly
Edgar