Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not One of His Best Paying Gigs

What . . . would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world's great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?
"Let's assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don't think that if he's really good, he's going to go unnoticed. He'd get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."
So, a crowd would gather?
"Oh, yes."
And how much will he make?
"About $150."
Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.
"How'd I do?"
We'll tell you in a minute.
"Well, who was the musician?"
Joshua Bell.

From a Washington Post Article

You read that right folks. Joshua Bell, the 39 year old Violin Virtuoso who recently won the Avery Fisher Prize, donned jeans and a sweatshirt and went into the Washington Subway last January and played his violin for the rush hour crowd.

He made the whopping sum of 32 dollars and change.

Before agreeing to the "experiment" Bell had only one stipulation and I quote from the article here to show his utter humility:

Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: "I'm not comfortable if you call this genius." "Genius" is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.

He did mention that the hardest thing was the fact that when he finished each piece, no one noticed. There was no applause or recognition at all except for one woman who recognized him just at the end of his final piece.

We are huge fans of Joshua Bell in this house. His mastery of the instrument is amazing, and his range of music is so broad. He is just as comfortable playing Rachmaninoff as he is playing Irving Berlin. The Red Violin was such a beautiful movie because of his music. And if you haven't yet heard his West Side Story Suite you are in for a real treat.

I kid you not, my children will be watching very carefully all summer, just in case Joshua decides to do an impromptu concert on one of our street corners here in his hometown. We will stop, and offer him more than change.


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