We all get emails that make us stop and think, but then we often find out later that they were just urban legends circulating through cyberspace spreading interesting but false information. I dash over to Snopes on a regular basis to check out internet stories. I love it when a cool story ends up being true. I got one of those today and thought I would share. (The Washington Post won a Pulitzer for a series of stories on this experiment in 2007.) It goes like this:
Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007: The man with
a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time
approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their
way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician
playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried
to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat
and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his
watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid
stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the
child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was
repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced
their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a
short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.
The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded,
nor was there any recognition..
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest
musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever
written, with a violin worth $35 million dollars. Two days before Joshua
Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station
was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about
perception, taste and people's priorities.
The questions raised:
*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we
*Do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context or do we judge their talent based on the context?
It merits some thought, don't you think? Certainly something to think about next time we walk by a stranger in a public place.
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