Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What might we be missing...

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.

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, 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 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 missing?

This is on Snopes and is true. The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for story about the experiment.


  1. LOL! I had to send Krysti a copy of this! We were walking past Verizon Center in DC on Sunday -- and there is ALWAYS somebody performing out on the sidewalk there - sometimes a band, sometimes a single musician - this time the man was singing.

    Krysti thought he probably needed to be locked away somewhere. I said "he's just trying to make a few dollars" ... mind you I didn't stop to donate this time - which is UNusual for me. I almost always give a dollar or two. But after READING this, I thought, I really SHOULD have stopped... and listened. I have before. A time or two. But MOST of the time, I'm busy - on my way somewhere... don't have "time"... should MAKE time.

    Thanks for runnin' this AS!

  2. It is true. We don't stop as often as we should -- though I might have stayed a few minutes, or at least slowed my pace -- life has gotten too fast paced.

    Here in Hawaii the clock hasn't yet become all important. At work, I am expected to get my work done every day, but when I do it is pretty much up to me. Some days I go in early so I can leave early. Other days I sleep in. I could have stopped to watch.

  3. Wow, I love this story! To think of all the beauty we miss in our hurry to exist.

  4. I am sure we all miss a lot every day in our lives because we don't take the time to stop and smell the roses! Since I retired I would probably stop but not when I was working. I was always in a run to go somewhere or do something. Not anymore. I am enjoying a more serene lifestyle. I love the photos of the ice storm. They are just wonderful.