The viola is often thought of as the awkward stepchild of the brilliant violin and the mellow cello. But if it has been the Cinderella of the string section, then perhaps its Prince Charming has arrived—in the person of Paul Neubauer, 22. “Every violist’s job is to champion the viola and give it the recognition it deserves,” says the California native. If anyone can wage the battle and succeed, it is Neubauer. Last spring, after an invitational audition with conductor Zubin Mehta, Neubauer was given the prestigious seat of principal violist at the New York Philharmonic and is currently its youngest member.
Neubauer began lessons on the viola at 7, encouraged by his father, a computer-company executive, and his mother, a teacher. Paul graduated from New York’s Juilliard School at the age of 19. His godfather and namesake, violist Paul Doktor, says that Neubauer is “like a race-car driver. He went into competition after competition. Other people fall apart. Paul thrived on it.”
He still does. Besides his position with the Philharmonic, Neubauer keeps a high-strung schedule of solo performances, which this summer will take him from the Hollywood Bowl to a music festival in Nantucket. An album is planned for the fall. Will Neubauer and his viola have a storybook ending? Says a close friend and fellow violist, “What Heifetz was to the violin, Neubauer could be to the viola.”
Born without legs, Barbara Adside, 22, wasn’t expected to walk, let alone do things like ride a bike. She never got the message. Not only did she begin walking with artificial legs at 19 months (she has never depended on a wheelchair or crutches), she had also learned, by the age of 10, six musical instruments and in high school was drumming professionally for bands throughout her native Florida.
Her real love, however, was acting, and after she saw a TV segment on the Performing Arts Theatre of the Handicapped (PATH), she felt confident enough to pursue that goal as well. Determined to audition for PATH, then headquartered in Los Angeles, she packed her belongings in a van and drove herself to the West Coast. And she won the audition. In the past two years she has appeared in The Fall Guy, Fame and Lottery. Last month she guest-starred in an episode of Night Court, “Walk Don’t Wheel,” adapted especially for her.
Although Adside declines to discuss her parents or her upbringing (she is saving that for a script she is writing), she feels no bitterness about her disability. In fact, Barbara, who often competes for parts that do not require handicapped actors, feels that her disability has enriched her acting. In that sense, she says, “it’s like a blessing it ever happened.”