Not a hoax, and a great Thanksgiving story

November 26, 2009

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, 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 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 tagged 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, 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 any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written,with a violin 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 average $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 the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: 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.

— Unknown writer, but see this link for more information.

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5 Responses to “Not a hoax, and a great Thanksgiving story”

  1. maureen stafford said

    Yes, I love this article and ever since I first read it, I tend to take a bit more time listening to muscians in the metro. It made me slow dodwn.-Maureen

  2. Lindsay Bartlett said

    Ah yes, how much more beauty would we see if only we listened to our children.

  3. Nely said

    Perhaps you’ll be able to tell me where the supply of your post is from? I’m fascinated by learning additional concerning it.

    • Arthur Fink said

      This text was passed along to me by somebody who didn’t know its source. From a web search I found out that it was a true story, but I ‘m still not sure who wrote this version. Sorry.

  4. Arthur J. Fink said

    I just got this one from a musician friend, one who plays in the local international Symphony Orchestra, with my wife. It led to quite a discussion here about the effects of random brilliance and random acts of kindness. Thanks for including this article in your blog. I’ll be looking forward to more of yours, and I’ll have to make some time later to look at your previous posts.

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