Skip to comments.Pearls Before Breakfast (Joshua Bell)
Posted on 04/11/2007 9:22:21 AM PDT by slowry
HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall ...
[continued on link below]
(Excerpt) Read more at classicalmusicguide.com ...
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That’s what I thought would happen when I first started reading the piece.
The article made me really very thoughtful. And sad.
I wish I was shocked by this story, as I’m sure a lot of Europeans will be. Had Bell dressed as Snoop Dogg and spat out some impromptu hip-hop, he would have made a lot more money.
Bookmarking to read later...
My preference is that it says more about D.C. residents since so many of them are either crack dealers or bureaucrats.
A more interesting experiment would have been to have Mr. Bell play at the same Metro station at the afternoon rush hour, when people aren't facing the wrath of a supervisor if they come in late and so have a better chance to stop and listen. Furthermore, people aren't necessarily in their pre-caffeinated fugue state.
Street violins in Washington, DC? He should have had a Saxophone accompany him........Sax and violins in the streets of DC is all too common.......
My younger daughter was a gifted classical trumpet player - good enough to get into the top trumpet studio in the US (if not the world) at Northwestern as the first pick. When she decided to quit because she saw no future in classical music, I upset at the waste of her talent, but reading this makes me realize she was probably right.
Uhhh, you are aware we're talking Washington, DC, here aren't you?.............
I played in the Montgomery Street station in SF’s Muni system back in 1996-1998 with a string quartet. We routinely made about $40-50 bucks each for an hour after we split it 4 ways. DC is just not used to street musicians.
Also, a string quartet gets more notice, I think.
Finally, I should note that we also tried an experiment. When we dressed shabbily, we would make less money. When we dressed semi-nicely, like we were doing it for fun, not because we desparately needed the money, we made a lot more money.
I think the problem was the time (morning, as opposed to afternoon rush hour) and the location (L’Enfant Plaza, as opposed to say, Clevland Park). I think there is no special shortage of commuters in that city who would appreciate Mr. Bell, incognito or not. But probably not when they’re late for work.
Getting to work late is still not a good thing if you want your career to advance. It's (unfortunately) easy to avoid getting fired by the Federal government, but if you want to advance your career, you do have to work pretty hard. Thus, most people try pretty hard to make it on time.
Well, SF is used to Sax and Violins right out in the streets........
Great Article, saved it to a .pdf file to send to friends.
At that hour people are in a hurry to get to work, they don’t care who is playing. George Bush could be there himself shaking hands, and they would be running to get to work (perhaps not, but I hope people get the idea).
If he played at a central place in New York City where people were sitting around during their lunch hour, people would be paying attention and stop to listen.
I have met Josh Bell years ago when he played with a Bluegrass / Classical combo Short Trip Home, consisting of Sam Bush, Edgar Myer and forgot who else off the top of my head, it was a session to record a video and some other things, I got tickets from a radio station I was a member of.
Furthermore, people aren’t necessarily in their pre-caffeinated fugue state.
I think it would be quite challenging for a single violinist to play a fugue.
That’s amazing. I’ve met Bell; he sold me an autographed CD about 10 years ago after a concert. He’s very good looking and he plays the violin like an angel. I fell in love with him even though he’s probably 35 years my junior and I’m married. I don’t think that I’d forget him, had I been in that crowd on January 12, and I think that I would stop to listen. Of course, I don’t work in DC. That level of stress takes all the enjoyment out of life.
Oh, that's BAD!
I want to believe this is case. Still sad.
I agree the time was an issue - smart street musicians play around lunch time and for the evening rush and a bit beyond. I’ve often stopped to hear street musicians in NYC’s Grand Central Terminal. Sometimes, with my kids, they would know some of the musicians playing.
I don’t give money to bums on the street. However, if one has a musical instrument that (s)he can actually play, I’ll cast in a buck or so, and may actually stay for a moment to analyze their technique and how good they really are.
Actually the shoe shine lady would have had the police run him off if he acted like snoop dog.
I heard him last September in Colorado Springs, and he is quite a virtuoso (and the Springs orchestra is outstanding—much better than those in other comparably sized cities I’ve lived in—had to get that plug in).
Joshua Bell & St. Martin in the Field were here in San Diego a few weeks ago. Great reviews.
One of the greats.
thanks for the story. sad commentary.