In a 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 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Here’s what happened:
- A middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
- The violinist received his first dollar from a woman who threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
- A young man leaned against the wall to listen, then looked at his watch and left.
- A 3-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. This action was repeated by many other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
- The musician played continuously, but only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.
- About 20 people gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace. (The man collected a total of $32.)
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was they any recognition.
Here’s the kicker: 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. (Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the tickets 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 environment, at an inappropriate hour:
- Do we perceive beauty?
- Do we stop to appreciate it?
- Do we recognize 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?
Stop, listen, watch… ENJOY THE PRESENT!!!