David Arben and Michael Tree

I spent an entire afternoon and evening with Mr. David Arben – always an enriching time of listening, learning and laughing… just moments after I had entered his Spruce Street apartment, Mr. Michael Tree phoned him asking him to dinner the next day – what a coincidence he should call while I was there!

David: “I have someone here who would like to say hello.”
Rebecca: “Hello Mr. Tree. It’s Rebecca from Santa Cruz.”
Michael: “Well hello! What a nice surprise! I was just calling David to invite him to dinner tomorrow after I finish teaching at Curtis. Would you be able to join us?”

The next evening I met David at the stoop of his apartment at 6:30pm. We walked, or strolled rather, stopping every few yards so he could punctuate a part of his story. With only a few blocks to walk, we arrived at Michaels’ hotel rather early so we took the extra time to walk to Curtis Institute of Music. As we passed this historic, ornate structure, he read my mind remarking, “This building has amazingly changed very little since I first came so many years ago.” On our walk to Tree’s hotel a woman stopped with her hands outstretched asking to shake David’s hand – she said his final recital touched her so much and she still remembers it vividly. Her husband, standing nearby, is the current piano tuner at Curtis.

Moments after arriving back at the hotel lobby, Michael appeared. As the two men embraced I couldn’t help but smile looking at the joyful look on Michael’s face. Every time I visit David, he tells me Michael has been such a true friend for all these years since they attended Curtis together. A loyalty we can all hope to share with someone.

We decided on returning to La Viola [the west side of 16th Street] – David and I had shared many a meals there but it was to be Michael’s first visit. Over pasta and wine, Michael spoke of getting to meet the great old violinists because his father interviewed them. Michael trembled with excitement meeting Heifetz at age nine and was dazzled by the company of Kreisler at age six or seven.

A scrumptious dinner with David and Michael at “La Viola” concluded my weekend in Philadelphia. Michael hailed a cab to make sure I got to the Amtrak station at 30th and Market. He saw me off with a kiss on the cheek and after shutting my door he knocked on the window of the driver to tell him my destination. As we drove away, my cab driver said with a thick accent, “A very nice gentleman.” I said “Yes, and did you know he is a famous classical musician?” My cabbie replied, “So nice. So humble. We need more people like that in Philadelphia.” I agreed with him and thought to myself, “We need people like Michael and David around the whole world.”

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