Saturday, 3 August 2013


 This is an old story.  One I have come across several times before, but it has a message that sticks in my mind.


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 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 a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

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 theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

Do we recognise 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 as we rush through life?

Enjoy life NOW .. It has an expiry date
Here is the link to the full article in the Washington Post.


  1. Love that story. Oh the ignorance of the busy world we live in. That's exactly the kind of thing that made me take stock of my life and move to Turkey.

    1. Yes Jacqui, and the reason why we stay here x

  2. The usual blindness...we pay a fortune for a concert seat, we appreciate, or we say we do.
    My father used to remark on the pained expressions of some concertgoers - his impression was that they were there to be seen as appreciating music rather than actually doing so.

    We see a chap playing in a public place and assume he is a it costs us nothing.

    We need to keep an eye open to the beauty of life...and forget the matter of money.

    1. I think your father was right Helen. And often the higher the price paid, the more they think they are impressing those around them.

      There is too much emphasis on the price of everything today, and so much less on what really matters.

  3. This piece moved me to tears the first time I read it - I don't know why. I am a real music lover and have heard some superb artists during my time both at concerts and on the streets. I believe I couldn't just ignore someone playing and have been tempted to block my ears when someone is really bad! However, I also remember a period of living in London when I would use my elbows without thought to reach a train that might leave without me and curse foreigners who always stopped at the bottom of an escalator in a blocking 'pool' - so perhaps at this time in my life, I missed some great music.
    Wonderful post, Ayak. I think I go slowly enough these days to appreciate even the birds and the crickets' songs.


    1. Yes Annie, the first time I read it I was moved. It's cropped up several times since and each time it has made me stop and take stock. I do feel that since I moved to this country with it's slower pace of life, and less interest in material things (well at least in villages anyway), that I do appreciate the beauty around me so much more.

  4. This was a great story......only makes me realize that I live in a busy city with life just going by at fast speed. We have lots of musicians playing in the Subways, but who has time to stand and listen. Everybody just shoving their way through in a hurry to get to where ever they supposed to get to......and like the saying says "Stop and Smell the Roses".

    I also noticed life is simpler in Turkey and people have less of material we kill ourselves to get the American Dream.
    Take care....

    1. It's all the rushing to get somewhere that prevents people from appreciating what's around them Erica. Even if they were to slow down by a few paces I'm sure it would make a difference..

  5. I have been known to sit on a bench near a really good busker and eat my sandwiches. I really do appreciate a good musician so I would always throw something in the hat as I left.
    I can't think why people have to rush all the time and its a pity about the children being rushed on by their parents.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

    1. There are some really good buskers about Maggie. I've heard a few on my trips to England. We didn't rush when we were children did we? It's sad that children today don't get the chance to slow down.

  6. About 18 years ago, I sat in the 4th row of a performance by Joshua Bell when I was in Houston; it cost much less than the $100 mentioned in the article, because it was before he became incredibly famous. I remember that he played with such passion. I think it's true that we miss so much beauty because of the demands of modern-day life, and also believe it's significant that it was the children who wanted to stop and listen. Children have much to teach us if we will only be attentive.

    1. How lovely to have had the chance to hear him play parepidemos. Children are constantly learning and it's difficult for them to do so, when they aren't given the opportunity to look and listen. Yes we should take more notice of them!

  7. Thanks so much for this, Ayak. I've just read the whole of the original article and the thing that really saddened me most was the fact that every single child wanted to stop and listen and none of the adults with them would let them. Children are so much more open to the new and special than the rest of us.

    That said one of the most magical memories of my entire life was on a weekend trip to Bruges with my mother-in-law and my daughter back in 1986. On an evening stroll through the town we came across a busker - a music student playing the recorder near one of the canals - and playing so beautifully that the combination of place and sound brought tears to my eyes and we stayed to listen for ages. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. It is sad that children are prevented from experiencing new things Perpetua, because their parents are in such a rush.

      I used to love Covent Garden years ago, where I could spend hours listening and watching street entertainers.


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