December 31, 2006

Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Gets a Place to Show Off His Gifts

The Los Angeles Times today has another excellent story by Steve Lopez about Nathaniel Anthony Ayers - the Juilliard-trained musician who because of his schizophrenia ended up on Skid row in Los Angeles. It is a good example of the positive developments that can happen in the lives of people who have schizophrenia - with a little support from the community. We thank Steve Lopez, the LA Times, and the Lamp Community for this hopeful story and their support of people with mental illnesses.

The LAMP Community is the organization that supports Mr. Ayers. Each night, more than 88,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County seek shelter on streets, in encampments, or in vehicles. It is estimated that between one-third and one-half of L.A's homeless people struggle with serious mental illness. Following is an excerpt from the LA Times article:

Nathaniel Anthony Ayers suspected that his Christmas present involved the long-awaited opening of the studio. But he didn't know the piano would be in it, donated by a nurse from Santa Monica, along with the bass I had just bought from a jazz musician in Venice.

Mr. Ayers had not played a bass since he became ill while at the Juilliard School in New York 35 years ago. He switched to violin and cello, because they're easier to load onto the shopping carts he lived out of in his hometown of Cleveland and later Los Angeles. Ben Hong, assistant principal cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and an admirer of Mr. Ayers, brought along some strings and a biography of Franz Schubert.

We set the gifts on the piano, along with a photo of Mr. Ayers alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma, his former classmate at Juilliard. The photo was taken backstage at Disney Hall in October, just before Ma embraced Mr. Ayers and told him his love of music made them brothers. When the studio was in order, Hong and I walked the two blocks from Lamp Village on Crocker Street to the Lamp drop-in center on San Julian Street, where Mr. Ayers spends his days.

Lamp houses, treats and supports people with severe mental illness on downtown L.A.'s skid row. Mr. Ayers, 55, lives in a Lamp-managed apartment and has settled into a routine in which he sweeps the floor at the drop-in center, takes out the garbage, and plays violin, cello and trumpet in the courtyard.

A Note from Steve Lopez, Writer for the LA Times:

In the interest of full disclosure, my editors have asked me to report that I'm nearing completion of a book on my two years with Mr. Ayers and the impact we've had on each other's lives. The book and my newspaper columns have been optioned by a movie studio that has also bought rights from Mr. Ayers. I've used some of my proceeds to pay his legal fees and other costs, and to make donations to Lamp. I get frequent queries from readers wanting to know how to contribute to Mr. Ayer's welfare, as well as to the new studio, and such questions can be answered at

Read the full story here: A place for Mr. Ayers to show off his gifts
(Los Angeles Times)

Additional Steve Lopez Stories on Nathan Anthony Ayers:

Life on the Streets of Los Angeles

Life on the Streets of Los Angeles - a Series by Steve Lopez

Nathaniel's Story: From Juilliard to Skid Row - NPR

Nathaniel Ayers Los Angeles Schizophrenia Story


Thanks for a beautiful site! I have added you in elected!
Necessarily I shall advise your site to the friends!
Best wishes for you!

Posted by: Truman at June 18, 2008 12:44 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required