The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During
that time approx 2,000 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
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.
30 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.
45 minutes: 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 Stradivarius
violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats
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 by the paper:
• In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive
• Do we stop to appreciate it?
• Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
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?