Musical Movement

Within minutes of finishing my anti-music post, I wrote this one about a favorite music memory.

When I worked at PC World, I took public transit from the East Bay into San Francisco. It took just shy of one and a half hours each way.

Emerging from the BART station, there were often musical performers with their hats out.

BART Musician
This is an awesome shot that I got from BARTMusicians.com

For many of these performers, “musician’ would have been a generous term. As a rule (and we all know me and rules), I don’t give money to street artists – it’s not because of my frugal tendencies so much as I want to have a choice in what I listen to and therefore support.

One day as I climbed the huge staircase, I was struck by the most beautiful music I had ever heard: A single violinist was playing a classical piece. It made me stop and simply listen and enjoy. I desperately wanted to ask what the piece was, but I didn’t want to break the spell.

I was the only one who stopped to listen to the man. Many people dropped coins in his violin case, but it didn’t seem like any more than the usual amount.

I stayed as long as I possibly could without being late to work. As I left, I dropped $5 into his case.

For months afterwards, as the BART train doors opened, I hoped for the sounds of that violin. Alas, I never heard him again.

Years later I heard about some research studies where top musicians would pose as street performers in high traffic areas. The goal was to see if anyone would stop and acknowledge their talents. If you watch the YouTube video, you’ll see it is normally a small child or two that stop, only to be dragged off by a parent. I wonder if there is video footage of 22-year-old me standing mesmerized at a musician’s feet.

What I think is equally as amazing is the fact that I despised classical music at that point in my life. In junior high, I wrote a report about how boring it was! Not that day, though. That was magic.

Have you ever experienced a phenomenal musician working as a street performer? or Am I the only one who can remember topics of junior high reports?

6 thoughts on “Musical Movement”

    1. I imagine it is very rare. I know there are a lot of music conservatories up in the Bay Area, so it is always possible it was one of their exceptional students. All I know is I was mesmerized, mesmerized enough that I remember this 5-10 minute long event nearly 20 years later.

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  1. You reminded me of a story I read about once. Some researchers were trying to find out if where they listen to music affected how people perceived it. So they had Joshua Bell, who is a renowned violinist, play near the subway in D.C. No one paid any attention to him more than normal except one person who recognized him. That person listened for about a half hour and left a $20 bill. Discounting that bill, he got about normal what every other musician in the area would get. We’re talking about a musician who play packed theaters at high ticket prices. It makes you think more about the people who play there. They might be better than we think.

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    1. It was as if it was a personal performance for me. That violinist definitely touched my spirit, even if I had no clue who he was or what he was playing. I hope he ended up having an incredible career. His talent was exceptional!

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  2. What a cool story. Fascinating that adults don’t usually take a few minutes to truly appreciate the music. I can only imagine the musicians would appreciate it.

    I have memories of the Paris subways over many years… a little of everything in that maze of tunnels.

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    1. I normally ignored the performers as well. Heaven knows what famous or soon-to-be famous people I walked past. Something about this one stopped me cold. I’m so glad I stopped … and that I’ve remembered it for so long.

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