Miss McCullough taught the strings in the orchestra.  And every Thursday at three-thirty was my time.  And for fifteen minutes I would stand before this music stand with a big, double, B-flat bass.  Big bass fiddle.  She would just say nothing.  She’d just take the exercise book that we used and she would open it to a page and say, “I want you to start at figure C.”

I would take up my bow, nervous, sweating, and I’d put rosin on it.  I always used to try to stall for time.  I’d put a lot of rosin on it.  I’d put my hand up to the pegs and listen dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-duuuunn.  I was pretending to tune it.  Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-duuuunn.  Miss McCullough would look at her watch, meaning, let’s get on the stick!  She says nothing, she’s sitting there in her metal chair, just waiting.




Going to work at the Museum by subway, I used to take a longer route than necessary so that I could have a comfortable seat and be able to easily read my book. From Forest Hills, Queens, I’d take the F Train to 6th Avenue and 34th Street, then climb stairs, go through a mezzanine, then downstairs to the Uptown B Local and get off at the Museum’s 81th Street stop. That was until I met a violin busker, James Graseck.

One morning, about to go upstairs, amid the noise, hustle, and bustle, I heard a classical violin despite the roaring trains, on the far side of the tracks—yes, in the subway. I went up, across the mezzanine, and down, finding the musician playing. I listened until he stopped, and put a dollar in his violin case.

Every morning I sought him out and went over to listen. I bought one of his CDs, I introduced myself and we would talk. Each day I put a dollar in his case. I told him that my mother used to be a classical violinist, a professional, playing in vaudeville in her youth, and that she had taught me to play.

*   *   *    *    *    *

I became obsessed with his indomitable spirit to play against the roar of trains.

I wrote a poem about him and gave him a copy.

He seemed quite pleased with my unusual gratuity.

He may still have it in his case.

That was twenty years go.

He’s been interviewed and shown

performing on radio, TV, periodicals.

I believe he still performs

his audacious artsy.

*   *   *    *    *    *

*   *   *    *    *    *




  1. Bettylou Steadman says:

    I love your posts and look forward to reading them.Bettylou Steadman

    • ebbergmann says:

      Thank you very much, BettyLou. I much enjoy thinking about such stuff and putting together my little essays about them. Of course, my enthusiasm for Shepherd and his radio work remains strong.

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