What would happen if the world’s best concert violinist played some of the best classical pieces ever written, on one of the most expensive violins ever made? Well it would probably be a special night for any big city Symphony, that’s for sure. But what if he got out and played in a Washington DC subway station during people’s morning commute? Would people be drawn in and spellbound.. would people just pass him by… would he make a little pocket change… would he make a difference in anyones life? It’s an interesting question and one that the Washington Post put to the test last January.
I’ve had this story stuck in my brain since I read about it almost a year ago and it still makes my head hurt when I think about what happened. Josh Bell is one of the worlds most accomplished violist of our time and every time he performs, he packs concert halls and plays to standing room only crowds. In his genre of musical expression… he is, arguably, king above all else. His violin is a 1713 (yes that is the year not the model) Stradivari that Bell bought for a price tag of around $3.5 million. With the two of these elements combined, one would think that this duo would draw 100′s of people… even if they aren’t into classical pieces.
What resulted when Bell played 6 of the most world renown pieces, was astonishing… almost no one stopped to even pay attention. Several people reported that they remember seeing someone playing, but couldn’t recall any details about it. It makes me sick to think that we are so focused on what we “think” living is, that we don’t take time for things that are not in our day to day “schedule”. Probably most haunting to me is this quote from a woman when questioned later about walking by.
“There was a musician,” Parker says, “and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time.”
At lunch today I had a conversation with my friend Chris about this story and he brought up that maybe these people were conditioned to their work routine. That they are focused on getting to work and didn’t expect to hear this amazing music and therefore blocked it out. I can understand that point of view, but I think that we have to begin to live our lives with total awareness of the beauty that lies around us. God created so much beauty in this world for it to be just ignored. As my friend Chris said, “We have to be aware of things such as work, it’s what makes us such a strong society.”, but I think we also need to balance it with the arts. Maybe the old cliche to “Stop and smell the roses” applies more than we think it does to day to day life.