Three years ago, journalist Steve Lopez met a homeless musician on skid row in Los Angeles. Lopez learned that the man, Nathaniel Ayers, had once been a promising violinist, and that he had left the Juilliard School because of his struggle with mental illness.
Lopez developed a friendship with Ayers, eventually helping him to get him off the street, settle into an apartment and find treatment for his schizophrenia.
Lopez chronicled Ayers' struggle in several columns at the Los Angeles Times, and recently published a book called The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. There's an upcoming movie version of their story starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.