My Mission: To Touch As Many Lives As I Can So As To Bring More Love, Hope And Joy To The World!

Do you stop to appreciate beauty or do you just walk on by?

street musicians

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.
6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes:
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.
45 minutes:
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.

1 hour:
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 $3.5 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 perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?


I received the above thought-provoking email from Poh Eng, one of my fellow patterns of excellence coaches. Just wanted to share it with my readers… Feel free to leave me a comment to share your thoughts! (and remember to forward me any inspirational emails you come across)


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melisa says:

Very interesting post, as well as the experiment. I have always thought about that, if people would really stop by to listen to a beautiful music being played by a musician on a street corner…Because I do.

That incident, what a loss. I wish I had been one of those people who witnessed it. I’ve always wanted to attend concerts on classic or traditional music, but only the rich could afford it. I love to watch musicians play, so the opportunity I have is only via YouTube and the local television.

Also, in the Philippines there are some groups of blind musicians that play on the street and you just drop a little donation if you want to. It’s always a pleasure to listen to them. Whenever I chance on them, I’d always stop and leave after a piece has been finished. And yes, put something on their wooden box.

This is really a great post, I have bookmarked it for future reference. ^^

Valerie M says:

This post is definitely an eye opener. It’s so true that environment affects a person’s perception of beauty. But fanfare needn’t always precede beauty and that’s where a lot of us get caught up. Thanks for writing this. 🙂