One Sharp Cookie: A Few Words With Astoria’s “Saw Lady”

Posted on August 2, 2010. Filed under: Astoria, Music & Dance, Off the beaten path |

As a child I thought that the saw had only one purpose, to cut through mom’s famous holiday fruitcake. Little did I know that the tool is also used as a musical instrument. Natalia Paruz presents New York City’s Musical Saw Festival Saturday August 7, 2010 (supported by the Queens Council on the Arts). How does one play the saw, you ask? I have no idea, so I asked Natalia. Here is what she said:

Where are you from?

I was born in Israel, but I have been in NYC  for almost 20 years.

How long have you lived in Astoria?

About 18 years.

Exactly how do you play the saw?  Describe the sound.

The most popular way for playing a saw is in a sitting position. You place the handle between your knees, hold the tip of the blade with your hand and bend it towards the floor. With your other hand you strike the non-serrated edge of the blade with a bow (such as a cello or violin bow). The sound that comes out is best described as similar to a soprano opera singer’s voice. It’s angelic and haunting.

How long have you been playing the saw and what captivated your interest in it?

I’ve been playing the saw for 17 years. I was attracted to both the sound it makes, which is so unique and different from any other sound I’ve heard before, and to the visual of a saw being played. Not only is it a striking visual to see what we think of as a carpentry tool being played as a musical instrument, but it also has a very beautiful visual effect: the saw is one of the only musical instruments where when played, the entire instrument moves.

Tell me the process of putting together the ensemble and festival?

I first organized a gathering of saw players 8 years ago. At the time there were only 5 of us saw players around. Last year our numbers grew to 55 and we even got into the Guinness Book of Records for being the ‘Largest Musical saw ensemble’ … we’ve had saw players come all the way to Queens from India, China, Japan, Canada and Europe just in order to participate in the festival!

Why Queens?

Many people tell me that I should move the Musical Saw Festival to Manhattan, but I don’t want to do that. Queens is my home, therefore I care to give back to my own community. It is so nice to see the community’s involvement and excitement over the festival. I like the fact that the festival helps draw attention to Queens and that it brings people from other boroughs as well as all over the world to Queens. It helps our local economy because all these people usually go to local restaurants after the festival, and the saw players from out of NYC stay at local hotels. The festival draws attention to Queens – it seems that many people outside of NYC don’t know about Queens. Through talking about the festival I explain to them that Queens is part of NYC and that it is worth while to visit. Also, I think it’s important for Queens locals to have cultural events right in their own “back yards”. Last week, while I was hanging a flyer advertising the festival, a lady approached to ask me about the festival. She told me that her son plays guitar and that he would be so happy to attend the festival, because it’s not far from their house and he doesn’t get to go to concerts usually because they are too far away. This is a perfect example why it is important to have the festival in Queens.

Anything to add?

One can download the festival’s flyer from and also watch videos from previous years festivals there.

The 8th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival is on Sat. Aug 7th, 2pm at the Hellenic Cultural Center, 27-09 Crescent Street (corner of Newtown Avenue), Astoria.

Admission: $10

Natalia "Saw Lady" Paruz in the musical saw ensemble photo credit- Harris Graber


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5 Responses to “One Sharp Cookie: A Few Words With Astoria’s “Saw Lady””

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This was on TV in the news! I found it on-line:

Astoria is not just the hot new place to live it is also the Musical Saw Capital of the world thanks to our own Natalia Paruz the Saw Lady who many of us know from the underground music scene. Once again she outdid herself and provided our community with a very entertaining and talented assortment of saw players, a fantastic poet and 4 standout pieces of original music from Scott Munson performed by The Ameriklectic Band. A pleasant surprise were The Venn Diagrams and their interpretation of Dream a Little Dream of Me.

Still images of the festival can be viewed here:

Diana- I agree, who would’a thunk it?! If you go to her website you can listen to her music- beautiful sounds!

I have long been curious about her…

Wow, this is funny…..and interesting. Who would have thought the saw is used as an instrument.

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