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The Time A Violinist Played For 45 Minutes In The New York Subway

Off The Record

The Time A Violinist Played For 45 Minutes In The New York Subway

Joshua Bell, a violinist widely considered to be among the best in classical music, decided to try his hand at busking. Along with their normal lives, would people notice what was happening?

The current music director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and a former child prodigy who became a global success as a soloist. His hair is as much a symbol of classical music as his 1713 Stradivarius violin.

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When it comes to classical music, Joshua Bell is up there with the greatest of all time.

He tried his hand at anonymous busking as a sort of social experiment.

If Joshua Bell had gone busking, what would have happened?

The Washington Post chimed in on Bell’s musical experiment. The American conductor Leonard Slatkin was interviewed by the newspaper beforehand to discuss his expectations for the experiment.

Slatkin said, “Out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognise the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.” Slatkin thought Bell might make $150 (£121) from his musical metro endeavours.

A baseball-capped Bell opened his violin case and began playing at 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, right inside the L’Enfant Plaza Metro entrance in the heart of Washington, DC.

The violinist played six pieces spanning 43 minutes: two by Bach, one by Massenet, and one by Schubert and Ponce.

Only 27 individuals out of 1,097 who passed Bell paid money, and only seven stopped to listen for more than a few seconds.

The sum Bell made was $52.17 (£42.18). Even a twenty dollar bill from a stranger who recognized him.

For Joshua Bell, you only have to pay $32.17. It’s not what any of us, even Slatkin, were expecting. The experiment’s unexpected outcome was widely discussed online.

Some hear it as a lament for those who passed it by; for a world that is either too busy, too preoccupied, too uncurious, or too indifferent to stop and take in the finest in classical music.

We have our doubts

Maybe that’s just the way things are. For those forty-something minutes, music was created by, for, and among us, just as it is every day, whether by Joshua Bell or someone who will one day be called Joshua Bell (but who loves music just the same).

Many at the time also saw it as an important lesson in appreciating the musical skill of the street artists and buskers who are always there.

What became of one of the most widely shared stories in classical music history

Since then, Bell’s life has stayed just as casual and unplanned as ever. A young busker was caught off guard in 2014 when he played a live television duet with him. It had been seven years since the virtuoso’s busking stint at L’Enfant Plaza, but he had finally made it back to the Washington, DC Metro system. Once again, everything was totally different.

The violinist came back this time accompanied by National YoungArts Foundation musicians. Press coverage and Instagram photos were plentiful.

The social experiment is still being discussed (with varied degrees of accuracy, according to the original author) 15 years after it was conducted. It’s also a popular meme to reenact on social media.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is the significance of music itself, whether heard or not. The next time you visit a train station, wouldn’t it be nice if you heard Joshua Bell or Nicola Benedetti performing Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin?

Check out the video below:

In that subway, Joshua played a 3.5 million dollar violin while performing one of the most complex works ever written.

Joshua Bell played to a sold-out, $100-per-seat crowd in a Boston theater two days before playing in the subway.

Experiment results demonstrated that the remarkable fails to stand out when placed in a normal setting and is thus under-appreciated.

There are brilliantly talented people everywhere who aren’t receiving the recognition and reward they deserve. But once they arm themselves with value and confidence and remove themselves from an environment that isn’t serving them, they thrive and grow.

Your gut is telling you something. Listen to it if it’s telling you where you are isn’t enough!

Go where you are appreciated and valued.

Know Your Worth.

Please SHARE this amazing surprise with your Family and Friends!

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