Master Violinist Goes Unrecognized
Joshua Bell emerged from the Metro and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript—a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money and began to play.
For the next 45 minutes, in the D.C. Metro on January 12, 2007, Bell played Mozart and Schubert as over 1,000 people streamed by, most hardly taking notice. If they would have, they might have recognized the young man for the world-renowned violinist he is. They also may have noted the violin he played—a rare Stradivari worth over $3 million. It was all part of a project arranged by The Washington Post—"an experiment in context, perception, and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste. In a banal setting, at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"
Just three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out Boston Symphony Hall, with ordinary seats going for $100. In the subway, Bell garnered about $32 from the 27 people who stopped long enough to give a donation.
Video: Joshua Bell Playing in a Washington D.C. Metro Station
Gene Weingarten, "Pearls Before Breakfast," The Washington Post (4-10-07)