At a Metro station in Washington D.C. on a cold January morning in 2007, a young violinist played several classical compositions as people rushed by. After three minutes, a middle-aged man slowed briefly, then hurried away. Thirty seconds later the young man received his first dollar; a woman threw it in his case without stopping. Six minutes later a man leaned against a wall to listen for a few minutes, then looked at his watch, and walked on. After ten minutes a little boy stopped, but his mum hurried him along. Other kids did the same, but every parent, without exception, rushed them on.
The young musician played for forty-three minutes. During that time seven people stopped and listened for a while, and twenty gave money as they walked past. He collected a total of $32, and when he stopped playing nobody noticed or applauded. What’s remarkable is this: the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest musicians, and he played some of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $US 3.5 million. Two days before, he’d sold out a Boston theatre where seats averaged $US 100 to listen to him play the same music he played at the Metro station that morning, where only one person recognised him.
So here’s the question: if you’ve no time to stop and listen to one of the world’s best musicians playing the finest music ever written, on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, what else are you missing as you barrel through life? It’s worth thinking about, isn’t it? (Note: Joshua Bell played incognito as part of a social experiment conducted by The Washington Post.)