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Violinist in the Metro

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 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, Joshua Bell sold out at a

theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

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


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?

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