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 thousand 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.
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
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
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
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of
the best 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, tickets for Joshua Bell's performance at a theater
in Boston were sold out 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 an 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
The moral of the story is, there is a place and time for everything.