Thursday, May 26, 2011

Would You Listen?

THE SITUATION: 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

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 theater 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 organized by the Washington Post as part of a
social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

The details of the Joshua Bell story by Gene Weingarten of the
Washington Post are here: