This is a video of an experiment.

It shows a violinist at a metro station in Washington DC playing the violin. He played for about 45 minutes. More than a thousand people passed him during that time. It was three minutes before anyone slowed to listen. Another minute before he got his first coin. A young three year old gave most attention – his mother dragged him away; as did all parents of interested children.

Someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

It was part of a social experiment by the Washington Post.

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?

From the article:

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?

“Let’s assume,” Slatkin said, “that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

So, a crowd would gather?

“Oh, yes.”

And how much will he make?

“About $150.”

Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.

“Well, who was the musician?”

Joshua Bell.


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