This past Friday, The Soloist opened in theatres across the country.
The film, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, is based on a true story and recounts the meeting of Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez and musical virtuoso Nathanial Anthony Ayers.
While in his second year at Juilliard, Mr. Ayers developed schizophrenia and became homeless – eventually making his way to Los Angeles.
In his May 29, 2005 article, A Twilight Concerto for Rats and Cello, Mr. Lopez writes:
"I know only part of his story. I know him playing the cello on a dairy crate in the morning sun, suspended somewhere between boy genius and lost traveler.
But where does he go after dark?
For answers, I’ve come to skid row in downtown Los Angeles to spend the evening with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. The sun has dropped behind glittering skyscrapers, and hardened creatures roam the streets."
Mr. Lopez’ opening line has a familiar ring: that of knowing only part of the story.
Many Americans have little or no actual understanding regarding homelessness. They are unaware of the demographic diversity of the nation’s homeless. They do not realize that homelessness can afflict anyone; that it can occur for any combination of reasons. Or that not everyone who finds themselves homeless is so by choice – or even at their own hand.
Consequently, this lack of understanding makes it easy to view the homeless through the eyes of stereotypes. Moreover, it makes it easy to disregard the suffering and struggles of those who face life on the streets of our nation’s cities.
Hopefully, The Soloist will help raise public awareness. Hopefully, it will bring to light that beneath the often times disheveled appearance is a person who is entitled to be treated with human dignity.
Below are some video clips about Nathaniel Anthony Ayers.
From CBS’ 60 Minutes: Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill musical virtuoso, was discovered living on the streets by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.
Mr. Ayers performing (accompanied by pianist Joanne Pearce-Martin.)
Steve Lopez celebrates Beethoven’s birthday with Nathanial Anthony Ayers and members of the LA Philharmonic at the Los Angeles Times.