The place: Washington, DC, Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. A man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2000 people went through the station, most on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace, stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried on.
4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw the money in the hat without stopping, and continued to walk.
6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
45 minutes: 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 $32.
1 hour: 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 seats averaged $100.
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?
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?