The Heart of the Matter
March 30, 2010
The Beauty of What's in Front of You


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 thousands 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 -- then hurried 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.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3-year old boy...

His mother tried to rush him, but the boy stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

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 averaged $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 themes were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: How 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?


Try not to miss the beauty of life coming your way -- it may be right in front of you. Right now, in fact.

Thanks to Larry Lustbader and Matt Miller for forwarding the link.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 30, 2010 02:14 PM


I heard this story before and was amazed. I tried to put myself in the situation where there was incredible music playing and yet, I was on my way to work and couldn't miss my would be hard for me to walk away as it was with the children. I am always so amazed by music and would have for sure applauded had I been there when the music stopped. Very, very interesting and thank you for sharing it! :-)

Posted by: Cheryle Sorensen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 31, 2010 12:56 AM

As a trained musician, my husband would have stopped. As a fan of street musicians and a person who stops to smell the roses, I would have stopped, but I have watched people rush by beauty all my life. Soooo sad. ;-(....

Posted by: sherrie miranda [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2010 05:48 PM

This is an amazing story. I am a classical music lover and am familiar with Joshua Bell ..but had never heard this. Yes, a telling tale...we NEED to stop and smell the roses...listen to the music..DANCE to the music..taste the spices..see the rainbow..and FEEL each breath! Life is too precious to let it rush by us.(or no..WE are the ones rushing by!).This moment called NOW is all we really have...Time to savor it.

Posted by: Valorie Berman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 3, 2010 09:11 PM

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