After 9/11, She Played Violin To Console. 20 Years Later, She Plays To Remember

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21min 43sec
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Magee Capsouto, of Superior, stands in Trinity United Methodist Church’s sanctuary. Sept. 1, 2021.

If you ask Magee Capsouto, the violin can be a transformative instrument. As a performer and teacher, she has seen it change people’s moods and lives.

The 31-year-old Superior resident hopes her violin will comfort audiences at Trinity United Methodist Church this weekend. She will be in the orchestra to accompany the Chancel Choir to perform “Requiem For The Living,” which honors the lives lost on 9/11 and in the ongoing pandemic.

But the stage is not all Capsouto is sharing with the choir. In a recent pre-show rehearsal, she shared her story of surviving the World Trade Center attack 20 years ago and of seeing how music could bring light to the darkest days.

Her story began, as many 9/11 stories do, on a glimmering New York morning. An 11-year-old at the time, Capsouto was living with her family in Lower Manhattan, just seven blocks from the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. On September 11th, her mother took her and her younger brother to a farmers market near the base of the towers. “We looked at the buildings and just kind of marveled at how beautiful the morning was.”

That peace was soon shattered.

“You know what a plane sounds like. You know when it's way too low… and not understanding why those two things were happening.” The Capsoutos looked up and saw the first plane strike the North Tower. Amid the smoke and debris, the family ran for safety.

They ended up finding it, as did many others, at the restaurant they owned 17 blocks north, Capsouto Freres. Never having lost power, the restaurant was a literal light in the darkness — and a figurative one, serving meals to traumatized neighbors and exhausted first responders. With spirits understandably low, one of those neighbors asked Capsouto to hop up on a table with her violin instructor to perform for the dazed crowd.

They played Bach’s Double Concerto.

An 11-year-old Magee Capsouto stands on a table while playing the violin in a restaurant.
Courtesy of Magee Capsouto
Magee Capsouto, 11, plays the violin at her parents' restaurant in New York City after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“It was a really, really powerful experience” that connected her with her heroes, she said. “That’s really guided my entire life and why I’ve committed myself to music.”

These days, Capsouto performs with orchestras, including the Colorado, Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs symphonies. She is a past associate concertmaster of The Boulder Bach Festival; And, she teaches. “In any way that I can in my life now, I am promoting music and making sure that those who need it, who want it, can access it.”

For Capsouto, this weekend’s interfaith program at Trinity United Methodist embodies the togetherness she witnessed in her family’s restaurant two decades ago. “That sense of community really just provided more healing than anything else,” she said. “And I think at this moment in time, we need that more than ever.”