Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The
man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During
that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of
them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed
there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few
seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in
the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at
his watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly The
kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard
and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This
action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without
exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened
for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their
normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one
applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the
greatest 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 Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats
This is a true 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 people’s priorities. The
questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate
hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we
recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best
musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written,
with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made….
How many other things are we missing.