Eastman School student receives a surprise gift

Posted at: 12/13/2012 4:43 PM
Updated at: 12/13/2012 6:47 PM
By: Ray Levato

A surprise gift during an Eastman School concert draws a standing ovation and prompts the conductor to say it was the best moment he'd ever witnessed.

The tragic and untimely death of an Eastman School student in April has given new life to an instrument he cherished and the recipient of Brett Miller's tuba got it as a surprise during a concert on Monday.

Imagine performing a solo in front of hundreds of people when the conductor abruptly stops the performance to say it sounds like there's something wrong with your instrument. That's what happened at the Eastman School. But it was ll planned.

Tara Fayazi is a junior at the Eastman School of Music. She was performing with the Tuba Euphonium Ensemble Monday when her conductor and fellow students sprung the surprise. Tara didn't suspect anything when her conductor and professor Don Harry included a tuba concerto in their Christmas concert.

Don Harry, Eastman School of Music Associate Professor, said, “I knew that Tara would go crazy and practice really hard, and so when she started to play, I said, 'It sounds like there's something wrong with that horn.' So I went over and started messing with it and taking a piece off of it. Then I asked if someone had a screwdriver and Jackie brought the horn out with a big red bow on it.”

Jackie Dreher, Eastman School Student, said, “I was just backstage waiting for someone to say, 'Does anyone have a screwdriver.' I'm holding it and my heart is pounding and I was already crying at this point because it's been a lot of work and a lot of giving all around.”

Tara Fayazi said, “I was like, “Oh gosh, he's stopping this piece.' I had no idea what was going on.”

Dreher said, “Seeing the look on Tara's face, she was completely taken by surprise.”

Fayazi said, “It's really hard to describe. I had to stand up and say something. But between the tears and the overwhelming emotion, I've never felt so much pure happiness in my life because it's just unbelievable.”

Harry said, “When she started to play after she calmed down, she played even better. And it was instantly noticeable. The whole room was vibrating because the horn is so much more resonant than the one she was playing.”

Jackie Dreher organized fundraising activities over 11 months to replace Tara's tired tuba and calls Tara her best friend.    They raised $4,700. And that's when the family of Brett Miller heard about it, and donated their son's instrument, a Mirafone tuba in perfect condition.”

Dreher said, “She works really hard to afford school here and she's never been able to own her own instrument. She's an awesome player and a fantastic friend to everyone in the whole school.”

Fayazi said, “ It's unreal. I've been carrying it everywhere I go. I don't want to put it down. I can't believe I have an instrument to call my own finally. It's just unreal.”

Eastman student Brett Miller died in April from a-plastic anemia. The $4,700 raised by Tara’s friends came from recitals, auctions and other fundraising activities. That money will now go to help children and their families with that disease.