Before he began, [Joshua Bell, 39 year old concert violinist] hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous. “It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.” Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro? “When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”
I’m no classical music fan. With a few years of musicianship (if forced servitude on a piano and time spent in High School Band can be called “musicianship”) in my background, I recognize classical music for what it is: complex, beautiful music. But I don’t go out of my way to listen to it. But then, I don’t go out of my way to listen to music, period. Usually, I work to the sounds of the household — kids screaming, dishwasher humming, cars passing — but there are times when I’ll put on a pair of headphones and listen to some Trance music or Classical. If I were a worker-bee on my way to work, I’d probably pass this busker up just the same way I’ve passed up buskers in the subway of New York or passed by the Jazz musicians in the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter. I’m doing something else, and it doesn’t really mean that the music isn’t any good, I’m just focused elsewhere. I told this story to my wife and kids and asked them: “What does it mean? What does it tell us that a world-famous violinist can’t get people to stop and listen to his music if he plays on the street corner?” “Don’t cast your pearls before the swine” dvfmama responded (No, I didn’t tell her the title of the article) and “Marketing. It takes good marketing to make a successful musician.” Both of which are true, of course. In winterspeak, where I first saw this article, Zimran talks about how incredibly wrong the predictions people made for this scenario were. Still, I wonder, if you put Joshua Bell on the corner of a South London street, how different the reaction would be.