Friday, Jul 29, 2016
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Toledo musician says loss `is like a death'

“It was my voice. I write and play music. That's what I live for when I wake up in the morning,” the 26-year-old professional musician said yesterday.

Mr. McDevitt, a member of the Toledo Symphony, says he's despondent - even physically ill - over the loss of the instrument, which was stolen from his van parked at a Sylvania Township fitness club while he exercised.

Mr. McDevitt, who is third player in the symphony's bass section, was getting in a workout at Central Tennis and Fitness, 5400 West Central Ave., last Thursday before heading to a 7:30 p.m. rehearsal at the Toledo Museum of Art's Peristyle.

After leaving the fitness club, he drove east on West Central and was passing Wildwood Preserve Metropark when he realized something was wrong.

“I felt a strange emptiness in the van,” he said. “I turned around and the bass wasn't there. I pulled over to the side of the road. I started breathing real fast. I was in a state of hysteria. I was screaming `Someone stole my bass!'”

Mr. McDevitt, who had no insurance coverage on the instrument, estimated its value at $18,000.

But the emotional value the 150-year-old, German-made instrument holds is beyond appraisal. He bought the bass five years ago from the estate of the late Henry Loew, his longtime teacher and mentor who was the principal bass player for the St. Louis Symphony.

Since the theft, Mr. McDevitt has performed with a borrowed bass, but the intensely personal experience that he enjoyed with his bass just isn't there.

“I had all these years of experience with my bass. I had found the right balance and sound that I was looking for,” he said.

The Toledo Symphony will offer a reward - the exact amount of which hasn't been decided, Robert Bell, the symphony's president and chief executive officer, said.

“The instrument is such a personal part of a musician's life,” Mr. Bell said. “It's something you can't place a value on. It's irreplaceable from that point of view.”

Township police Detective Jim Rettig said he has alerted music shops in Toledo, Bowling Green, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, Mich., that someone may be trying to sell the stolen bass. “If the thief knows what he has, he may try to get rid of it at a store with some expertise,” he said.

Mr. McDevitt said his van was locked, although it showed no signs of forced entry. He believes the thief unlocked it through a slightly open window.

The bass is about six feet long and weighs about 20 pounds. The deep-sounding instrument, also known as a bass viol, string bass, and double bass, backs up the violins in an orchestra. Unlike the cello, it is not favored as a solo instrument.

Twenty-five years ago to the month, in a strikingly similar crime, the bass of another Toledo Symphony member was stolen from a car parked outside a Toledo restaurant. It was recovered and returned to its owner, Marian Wingert.

Ironically, Central Tennis and Fitness is where many Sylvania Township police officers work out, Mike Zerner, a manager, said. “If you're a thief, you've got to have a lot of guts to do this. When this happened I know there were officers here. We just feel terrible. If there's anything we can do, we will,” Mr. Zerner said.

Mr. McDevitt came to the Toledo Symphony 15 months ago from the New World Symphony in Miami, an orchestra for younger professional musicians created and run by famed conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

“[Mr. McDevitt] auditioned against many others to get here. It was a national competition,” Mr. Bell explained. “He's written a piece that we hope to premiere in March. He's been a great asset to the symphony.”

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