ASTORIA — Nearly two decades ago, Natalia Paruz was traveling in Europe when she was transfixed by an unusual sight: a man running a violin bow across a carpenter's saw, drawing ethereal notes from the tool.
"In a show for tourists, I saw a guy playing a saw, and I was mesmerized," the 36-year-old Astoria resident recalled.
"Not only by the sound — which is angelic and otherworldly and spiritual — but also by the visual. When you play a saw, the entire instrument moves. It creates wave-like shapes in the air."
Known as New York City's "Saw Lady," Paruz is one of the city's best-known buskers, playing for years at crowded subway stations across the city and standing out from the saxophonists and break-dancers with her quirky instrument.
This coming Saturday, dozens of fellow saw players from around the world will join Paruz on stage at Astoria's Trinity Lutheran Church for the New York City Musical Saw Festival.
Paruz has been hosting the event in the neighborhood for the last decade, helping to put Astoria on the musical saw map. The festival snagged a Guinness World Record in 2009 for "largest musical saw ensemble," after 53 saw players performed together at once.
"It's really exciting to see how people from all walks of life, all generations, are getting into it," Paruz said, saying her first Saw Festival in 2002 featured just four other players. This year, 40 performers will take to the stage.
"It's really nice to see how this art form is picking up," she said.
The event costs $10, and will feature a concert, saw-inspired art and poetry, and a series of saw-playing workshops for beginners to advanced players.
Paruz, who now gives lessons for a living and has performed at renowned venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, said she's still a subway busker at heart.
"I've been playing in the subways for probably 16 or 17 years. It's my favorite place to play at," she said. "The acoustics there are phenomenal, and the proximity of the people there is addictive for me."