Are you aware of the fact that you may have missed a miracle or two on your way to work or school today? When last did you stop to smell the roses? Count any blessings lately?
An email outlining this intriguing story has been circulating since December 2008. There have been claims that it may be a hoax, or an urban myth, but it is indeed a true story. The event was captured on video with a hidden camera.
Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten created this interesting social experiment, with the assistance of renowned violinist Joshua Bell. He wanted to find out if people would notice music played by a celebrated artist, compared to that of an ordinary street musician. Would they even bother to stop and listen?
Just three days prior, he played at the Symphony Hall in Boston, to a sold out audience who paid around $100 per ticket for the relatively good seats! Gene Weingarten won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2008 for his article Pearls Before Breakfast, which he wrote about this experiment. Audio and video recordings of the event are available at the Washington Post website.
The email that has been circulating reads as follows:
"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”
Sources: Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post; Barbara and David P. Mikkelson, Snopes.com; David Emery, About.com.