Amagansett’s Music Legend & East Hampton’s Virtuoso
It was 8AM on Saturday August 11, 2012, and I was heading out to Amagansett from Chester NY. I’d made this trip hundreds of times since March 1997 when we opened a clothing, footwear, beach toys & accessories store called Outdoors of Amagansett on Main St in the heart of the village. This trip, however, was different. It had nothing to do with selling anything. It was a trip to help spread a little more music throughout the world.
In addition to owning Outdoors, I am the Co-Founder of Music for Humanity, a 501c-3 not-for-profit organization. Our mission is to give music scholarships to young aspiring musicians, who have a passion for music, but need financial help to continue their music education. That day, I was delivering a $2,500 check made out to The Manhattan School of Music to Maxfield Panish, a recent graduate of East Hampton High School. Maxfield was one of three winners of the 2012 Music for Humanity scholarships. On my drive out, I never imagined I would meet a music legend that same day.
Originally, I had planned to have a mini awards presentation in front of my store. However, after having given it some thought, I felt it was more appropriate to have it in front of Crossroads Music, a store that had recently relocated to Amagansett Square, directly across the street from Outdoors. I contacted Michael Clark, the owner of Crossroads, to ask him if I could set up a display to present the check to Maxfield. As soon as he gave me the okay, I sent press releases to the local papers and an email blast to our customers with the hope of attracting at least a small group of people to the attend the presentation at noon.
After an uneventful drive, I arrived in Amagansett at around 11 am. The weather was perfect – about 80 degrees with a few scattered clouds and a soft breeze. Most importantly, there was no rain in the forecast. Shortly after arriving at my store, I gathered the items I would need for the presentation – a small table for the Music for Humanity CDs, the Music for Humanity logo sign, and a music stand on which to display it and carried them across the street to the area in front of Crossroads.
At around 11:30, just as I was returning to my store, I spotted a customer place a couple of pair of plaid shorts that he wanted to purchase on the counter. As I walked towards the registers, my store manager, Ella Specht, was ringing up the sale. I noticed a strange expression on her face and had the distinct impression that something out of the ordinary was taking place. Although I don’t usually wear baseball caps, for the upcoming presentation that day, I had decided to wear one with a Music for Humanity logo on it. By the time the customer had completed his purchase, I was standing to his left. As he turned to me and looked at my hat, I recognized him and immediately extended my hand and said “Nice to meet you, Paul”. It was none other than Sir Paul McCartney!! As we shook hands, I introduced myself and thanked him for his business. Although I’d never had the pleasure of meeting him before, I knew that he had a home in Amagansett and had been a customer of ours for many years.
“I’m about to deliver a $2,500 Music for Humanity scholarship check to a young violinist to help him continue his music education”, I told him. “Oh, a fiddler, eh?”, Paul replied. “Yes, I guess you could call him a fiddler.”
I invited Paul to the ceremony but he declined since he was with his young daughter with whom he had previous plans. Suddenly, I heard her say: “Daddy, can I have these?” showing Paul a handful of beach toys. “Honey, you can have whatever you want, but just pick one item” he replied. I admired the way he gave her gentle loving discipline instead of spoiling her. For a man who could buy all of East Hampton, he seemed very well grounded.
As my mind raced thinking about what I could give Paul about Music for Humanity, I asked Ella to give him a copy of a story I had just written entitled “Summers in Amagansett”. As she handed it to him, he asked: “You wrote this?” I nodded and he said he would read it. Within the next few days, I entered that story in the first Dan’s Papers Literary Contest and it won a prize.
After Paul and his daughter rode off on their bikes, I went across the street to Crossroads Music to present the check to Maxfield who was there with his mother Karen. No one else came to the “ceremony”, but a few people passing by asked what was happening and one was kind enough to take a couple of photos of Maxfield, Karen and me.
Maxfield is a good-looking young man, about 6 ft. tall, thin, short hair, clean cut and wore a white, long sleeve dress shirt with a blue striped tie and a pair of khakis. He has a soft smile and a gentle intensity about him – he looked me right in the eye. Framed by the Music for Humanity and Crossroads Music signs, I presented Maxfield the check and shook his hand as Karen beamed and took a photo of us.
I had neither met nor heard Maxfield play the violin prior to receiving his video submission that accompanied his scholarship application. I was very impressed with his talent and forwarded it on to the Music for Humanity Scholarship Committee. When I found out that they had awarded him a scholarship, I was extremely pleased – he so deserved it. He was East Hampton’s violin virtuoso. He reminded me of Paul McCartney and many other great musicians who started playing / training at a very young age. Maxfield told me that when he was five years old, he heard a beautiful sound on the radio. When he learned that the sound was from a violin, he knew, from that moment on, that he wanted to become a violinist. I was truly thrilled to be able to help him pursue his dreams at this stage of his life.
I drove back to Chester with a real natural high thanks to having met Paul and delivering the scholarship check to Maxfield. Music for Humanity, an effort by hundreds of people who give of their time, talent and money, was helping to spread music. In the depths of my being, I knew that more music would result in a better world for all of us. I was convinced that Maxfield would progress to having a successful professional career as a violinist. Everything that happened that day made me think about a moment in 2005 when I heard God’s voice, a whisper like in the movie “Field of Dreams”. Instead of saying, “build it and they will come”, the voice I heard whispered “Music for Humanity”. Those words gave my life added meaning and a new direction. Presenting Maxfield, a violin virtuoso, with a scholarship check that day made me think, “We’re making some progress.”