>Violinist in the Subway
A man sat at the L’ Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington DC and started to play the violin. It was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes, starting with the difficult Chaconne in D-minor. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the violin case and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes after that, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for something.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy.
His mother tugged him along but the kid stopped to look at the violinist and listen anyway. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time to look back.This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32,17. When he finished playing after 43 minutes and silence took over, no one noticed.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the musician was Joshua Bell, one of the foremost violinists in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written… with a Stradivari once played by Fritz Kreisler, worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the ticket prices averaged $100 each.
Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the subway, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The outlines were this: In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we even perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?