Dr. Isaac Steingart had given up on Neil. It was not about his wonderful musical abilities that he constantly lauded, but for his best student's unwillingness to participate in the recitals he annually held for his students. Without a doubt, all students fear that dark theater set up and the audience, even if it is made up mostly of parents and friends. When they walk onto the platform and look out, they see reflective eye glasses, rigid faces, and hear muttering that rapidly recedes, then the silence as they adjust the seat and prepare to play. To them it's a hostile, poised, alien army that they see. Neil always gave a terrified “No” when he was invited to play at the recital. His mother was asked to aid in changing his mind, but she was made of the same material, and not surprising that the requested assistance was not forthcoming.
At the end of his lesson, his teacher plead, “You must experience being in front of an audience even if you choose to play privately for the rest of your life young man. Most of us, sooner or later, are required to face a group whether it's small or large. Certainly you have had to read one of your papers or compositions in front of the class?
“Not as yet sir,” He answered.
“You must learn to confront an audience. You play beautifully; therein you have the ability to make people escape their worries or problems for a few moments. That's the power of music. We transport our listeners. Wouldn't you enjoy having that ability?”
He shook his head in agreement, as he slipped into his jacket and headed for the door.
“See you next week Neil.” Dr. Steingart reached and put his arm about his shoulder, it was clear his words had no effect on him. “You know you’re the one student that I never have to ask to practice,” gently pushing him through the door. “Next week . . . next week.”
Dr. Steingart's studio was in The Ansonia Hotel on Broadway and as he exited the building with his cello slung over his shoulder, it was after six. The streets were crowded with the homeward bounds along with the theater patrons and concert goers heading for places to sup before the seven-thirty or eight o'clock parting curtains or the conductors poised baton signaling an evenings beginning.
Neil purposefully walked slowly, everyone else was moving at a faster pace than him. It was as if he was non-existent, no one cared. They were on their own chosen route. Some had cell phones up to their ears, talking to some one in an entirely different part of the universe. He noticed a young man smiling and talking fast, arriving at a corner and without any hesitation stopped with everyone else because of a red light, then began walking again without even looking to see if it had changed. He simply responded to the movement of fellow pedestrians walking beside him. A young well dressed women came toward Neil talking into her phone, rolling her eyes as if the person on the other side of the planet had just revealed a don't tell anyone else story. He...