Well known violinist, Philippe Quint, left a Stradivarius violin in a New York Taxi. He was frantic, until it was returned to him next day by the taxi driver
Lost and found – the £2million violin
This assembly highlights the feelings of a person losing something precious and the honesty of the cab driver. It makes the point, too, that both the violinist and the cab driver are immigrants, working hard to make their way in a new land, each adding value in his own way.
Currently on YouTube is an ITV clip of the story, including the mayor’s speech. (Search ‘$4m dollar lost violin is found’.)
If you, or a colleague, have something precious – a ring perhaps – that you once lost for a while, bring it to the show.
(Speak about your own lost item.)
Who’s ever lost anything very precious? (Take some stories.)
Can you remember the moment when you discovered your loss? How did you feel? It’s a really awful feeling, isn’t it? You just can’t settle. You want to keep searching, and you keep on looking in the same places, even when you know you’ve already looked once.
It’s worse when the thing you’ve lost is precious. And, of course, there’s more than one way that something can be precious. Can anyone tell me about that?
Something can be precious because it’s worth a lot of money. Or it can be precious because it’s something that you really like and means a lot to you, even if it’s not particularly valuable.
Let me ask you something else. When you lose something, do you feel better or worse if it’s something that belongs to someone else?
Yes, I think it’s worse when it belongs to someone else. You feel responsible for it. You were trusted with it and you let down the person who lent it to you.
In today’s story, we’re going to hear about someone who lost something that was precious in every possible way. It was worth a huge amount of money. It belonged to someone else and it was very special to the person who lost it. Now what could it be?
One day, a few weeks ago, the famous violinist, Philippe Quint, was returning to his home in New York from a concert in Dallas. He landed at Newark Airport, near to New York City, with his girlfriend, loaded all their luggage into a taxi, and travelled to their home in Manhattan, in the centre of New York City.
When they got home, they unloaded all their luggage, and the taxi drove off. But, when they got into their apartment and sorted their luggage out, they realised that Philippe had left the most important thing in the taxi. It was his violin – the instrument that he used to give his concerts and make his recordings.
And, what’s more, this isn’t just any violin. Philippe couldn’t pop down to a music shop and replace it. This is a Stradivarius, a violin made by the great eighteenth century violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, the greatest of all stringed instrument makers. It was made in seventeen-twenty-three and it’s worth two million pounds.
Not only that, but it doesn’t belong to Philippe. Like most of the really great and valuable violins, it belongs to a wealthy person, who owns it as an investment and lends it out to players who are thought to deserve the very best instrument. This one belongs to a very rich couple, called Clement and Karen Arrison and, over the years, it’s been played by several of the world’s great violinists.
Now imagine Philippe’s feelings. He’d been trusted with this magnificent instrument and now he’d lost it. He was absolutely devastated. He did everything he could – rang the police, the taxi firms, everybody.
Meanwhile, the Strad – the violin – was sitting in the back of the taxi unnoticed, and the driver, whose name is Mohammed Khalil, parked the vehicle up for the night.
The next day, when he went to the airport to do his taxi work, he discovered that the other drivers were saying that the police and the taxi authorities were looking for a missing violin. And there it was in the back of his cab.
In no time, Philippe was reunited with the precious Stradivarius. Can you imagine his feelings now? He gave Mohammed the only money he had in his wallet, which was a hundred dollars. Then he was so happy he went to the airport, where all the taxis waited, and got out the Stradivarius and gave a concert to the drivers. They loved it, and several of them were dancing.
‘It was great to see them dancing,’ said Philippe. ‘That doesn’t usually happen at my concerts.’
A few days later, when the mayor of New Jersey got to know what had happened, he had a special ceremony. He made a speech praising Mohammed’s honesty and good work, and gave him a special medal from the city.
We all know that you can’t keep the things you find. But it’s good to be reminded of that, and to know that, when you do find something, you are probably now in a position to make someone feel really good, so the sooner you do something about it the better.
Mohammed Khalil is a taxi driver, working hard to make a living for his family. Philippe Quint lives a very different sort of life, travelling the world, playing in concerts and making recordings.
But they both have something in common. They are both immigrants – people who have come to America from another country to make a better life. Mohammed is from Egypt. Philippe is from Russia. But they are both Americans now.
America, you see, just like our country, is home to many people from all over the world, who have brought their skills and talents and ability to work hard, and help to make their country a better place. Do you think America is better for having people like Philippe and Mohammed there? Yes, I think so, too.
Lord, we thank you for the honesty and generosity of good people, and for acts of friendship that make the world a better place. May we be thoughtful of the feelings and needs of others, ready to do what we can to put things right when they go wrong.
Philippe brings music into peoples’ lives. Mohammed helps people to travel to where they want to go. Each of them, in his own way, adds something to the lives of others.
Earlier this year, David Garrett, one of Britain’s foremost violinists, was coming off the stage, after a concert at the Barbican, when he fell and landed on his
two-hundred-and-ninety-year-old Strad. It will cost sixty-thousand pounds to repair and there’s no guarantee it’ll ever sound the same again. Nobody really knows why Strads have that special sound. Many makers have tried to do just as well, but none have really succeeded.
In 2004, Peter Stumpf of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, left his three-hundred-and-twenty-year-old Stradivarius cello out on the doorstep when he came in one night. (Can you imagine that?). Camera footage shows a youth making off with it on a bike. He threw it away. A woman found it and her boyfriend, a woodworker, was going to turn it into a CD rack, but, luckily, she realised what it was before that could happen, and Mr Stumpf got it back.
In 1999, top cellist Yo-Yo Ma left his Stradivarius cello in a New York taxi. And yes, he got his back, too, with a police escort.
Stradivari made about 1,100 instruments during his life. About half of them are still in existence.
Look at The Violin Site for information on how violins are made and more about Stradivari.
Things to do
Can you role-play the moment that Philippe and his girlfriend knew they’d left the violin? Do you think they had a row? Do you think the girl said, ‘Never mind, dear, let’s have a cup of tea.’
There are various possibilities. Act some of them out.
This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2008
About the author: Gerald Haigh