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Steve Lopez speaks on ‘The Soloist’

Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist and author of the “The Soloist,” spoke to a packed audience in the Ludwick Conference Center on Oct. 7. Students and faculty from across campus came to hear Lopez speak about his experiences in journalism and particularly about his friend Nathaniel Ayers. “The Soloist” is based on Lopez’s experiences and friendship with Ayers. / photo by Garrett Gutierrez

Michael Phillips
LV Life Editor

Last week Los Angeles Times columnist and author of the “The Soloist” Steve Lopez spoke to students and faculty in the Campus Center.

Lopez shared his story about his experiences with his friend Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless musician who Lopez met on the streets of Los Angeles in 2005.

“There is a man playing a violin, beautiful music on just two strings, and I look a little closer and it’s a beat up scratched violin with Stevie wonders name on it.”

Lopez was looking for a column idea when he heard the sound of Nathaniel Ayers violin.

Lopez was drawn to Ayers by the sound of his music, his unorthodox instrument and the fact that Ayers was playing for free.

“He said well I used to play but it all fell apart I’m just trying to get on track,” Lopez said.

Lopez described the first few meetings.

“I don’t think I’m a particular outstandingly nice person, I think I was desperate for a column,” Lopez said.

“Being honest with you here I respect you enough to tell you the truth but then I got quickly sucked in he is a charming guy you realize that there is an opportunity to do some good.”

“Each time I talked to him he was a little bit more open and receptive to the idea of chatting with me and we started having some really good talks it got to him being scared of me to not wanting me to leave,” Lopez said.

Shortly after his column on Ayers, Lopez began receiving numerous emails and soon after a donation of instruments from musicians who wanted to help Ayers. Musicians sent Lopez six violins and two cellos, but Ayers was hesitant to accept them at first because he could not pay for them.

Instead of leaving the instruments with Ayers, Lopez left them at Lamp Community Mental Health Agency.

At first Ayers would not go, but one day something changed and Ayers went to Lamp and played for everyone in the quad.

As time grew Ayers and Lopez’s bond grew stronger. Lopez helped him get an apartment and even go to the Disney Concert Hall.

“I’ve written stories from all over the world, but the story of Nathaniel Ayers affected him and the people he knew even more,” Lopez said.

Students and faculty were excited to see Lopez. University of La Verne students enrolled in writing courses have been reading Lopez’s novel for the campus wide program One Book, One University. The students and faculty have joined together to practice community reading and writing, using Lopez’s novel.

Lopez had a full house, housing more than 100 people in the Campus Center ballroom. Lopez shared his funny side with students and faculty.

“I’m flattered by this turnout, although somebody in the audience did confess to me there was not a single other thing to do tonight,” Lopez said.

Lopez asked the audience members who have read his novel to raise their hands; he then asked those who had seen the movie to raise their hands, saying that many people who only see the movie often lie about reading the book.

Although they are based on the same story there are some differences, one example Lopez pointed out was that in the book he is happily married as he is in real life, but in the movie he is portrayed as divorced.

“I saw the movie first and really liked it, but now I really like the book. Compared to the movie, I’d choose the book,“ Ashley Cole, psychology major, said.

After speaking Lopez allowed the audience to ask questions, and then signed books before leaving to go to the Disney Concert Hall.

“It was pretty interesting to hear from his point of view. A lot of what you hear is the story and what happened but we got to hear about what he thinks. It was different to hear him in person,” freshman Aaron Brown said.

“If Nathaniel were here he would say, ‘Just do good deeds’,” Lopez said.

Michael Phillips can be reached at

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