Violinist in the Metro
A man sat at a metro 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. During that time, since
it was rush hour, thousands of people went through the station,
most of them on their way to work.
Sent in by Mike Flanagan
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there
was 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 till and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, 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 work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy.
His mother tugged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to
look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the
child continued to walk turning his head all the time. 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, of the thousands that
passed by, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.
About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal
pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence
took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of
the best violinists in the world. He played one of the most
intricate pieces ever written for a violin, which was worth
3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold
out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro
station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a
social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of
people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment
at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we
stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize artistic talent in an
An interesting question drawn from this experience:
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?
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