Would you stop to listen to Joshua Bell in the subway? – Blog Host Jeff

A fascinating bit of news caught my attention today. On Sunday, the Washington Post published an article
that revealed the results of a social experiment they recently conducted in Washington D.C.

Here’s the question: If you take one of the best and most-recognized violinists in
the world and have him perform solo on his $3.5 million Stradivarius for nearly
45 minutes in a subway station during rush hour, will anyone stop and notice?

Here’s the answer: Um…no.

In the end, the article quotes several famous philosophers
in coming to the conclusion that our perception of art and beauty is greatly
affected by environmental context. I’m
no philosopher but this conclusion makes sense me.

Regardless, I find the results of this study absolutely shocking,
especially considering Josh’s recent appearances in Pittsburgh – on stage at Heinz Hall and at a PSO “young professionals” event at Hard Rock Café
in Station Square – and the
overwhelming audience response to each event.

For an added bit of shock and awe, the Washington Post asked
conductor Leonard Slatkin to predict how many people would stop to listen to
Josh and how much money he would make. Alas, Maestro Slatkin overestimated. He guessed that out of 1,000, 75-100 would stop and that “the violinist”
(he didn’t know it was Josh at that point in the interview) would take home approximately
$150. In the end, 7 stopped and Josh’s
take was just over $32.

As it so happens, Maestro Slatkin and Josh Bell will share
the Heinz Hall stage this December. So,
when they’re in town, stop on by and ask them about this fascinating experiment.  I know that I will.

In the meantime, pay special attention when walking around
downtown or riding the “T” – that seemingly inconspicuous musician in the
corner just may be the modern day Paganini in disguise.

Speaking of Paganini

1 thought on “Would you stop to listen to Joshua Bell in the subway? – Blog Host Jeff”

  • There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: http://www.SawLady.com/blog
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

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