Stop and Hear the Music

A friend of mine brought the following story to my attention the other day and I am so excited to share it with you this morning. A number of articles were written on an experiment that took place several years ago in Washington, but this article from the Huffington Post is particularly cogent to our ongoing discovery of how to live an uncommon life:

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

Do you perceive beauty and if so, do you acknowledge it? I decided some time ago to be more expressive of the beauty I see in others and that simple shift in my expression changed my life. Beauty comes in so many forms and the world is full of people who reveal its many facets. It’s hard to get through a day without noticing beauty in one form or another. A beautiful face. A beautiful mind. A beautiful expression. A beautiful sunrise. The possibilities are endless!

I imagine that the world would be a different place were we to be more successful in cultivating an appreciation of beauty in our youth. It would kill two birds with one stone, really. The importance of learning to appreciate the people, places and things that move past the viewfinder of your life and the value of developing the unselfconscious and radiant ability to acknowledge beauty in the world around you cannot be overestimated.

You can see a short time-lapse video of the experiment here: httpv:// and find the original Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post article here:

7 thoughts on “Stop and Hear the Music

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Stop and Hear the Music | Gregg Hake's Blog --

  2. Joshua

    I was beginning a race in my mind this morning, when I saw the word “Stop and Hear the Music” which this piece certainly was to my ears. Thanks for re-centering my balance, this day will uplifted as a result!
    Thanks Gregg, always appreciate your timely arrival each morn.


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