Violinist wants kids to have music in their lives Acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell performs at Union Station in Washington. Seven years ago, Bell performed incognito for tips in a Washington subway station, but almost no one stopped to listen (AP photos)
Violinist wants kids to have music in their lives
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Seven years ago, the well known violinist Joshua Bell performed for tips in a Washington subway station. Almost no one stopped to listen.

The underground performance was an experiment with The Washington Post. The newspaper wanted to see if commuters would notice some of the world's great music being played as they rushed to work. It made for a good story that eventually won the Pulitzer Prize and inspired a children's book.

Bell, the Grammy-winning musician, now wants to call attention to the need for music education in every school. He was lucky, he said, to have parents who encouraged him to play music from an early age.

Now students sometimes make it through school without any music or art education.

Bell will perform with young musicians he has mentored for an upcoming HBO special. It's titled, "Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass," which debuts Oct. 14.

"Music is something that should be a part of everyone's life," he said.

On Tuesday, the 46-year-old musician was scheduled to play at Washington's Union Station. Bell planned to perform works by Bach and Mendelssohn for the lunch hour crowd on Capitol Hill. He was to be accompanied by nine young musicians he has helped coach.

Nearly every day for the past seven years, someone has reminded Bell of his subway performance, he said.

"I wouldn't want to be defined by just that experience," Bell told The Associated Press. "Hopefully the rest of my body of work will carry more weight than that."

Also on Tuesday, Bell is releasing his first album of the composer Bach's violin concertos and arrangements for violin and orchestra. He began his career playing Bach's music. But he has resisted recording it until now.

"Bach is in some ways the holy grail in classical music," Bell said. "It's so important to me but important that I get it right. ... I kind of finally felt ready."

In the train station, Bell and his protgs will play some pieces from the new Bach album. They won't be able to play for tips this time because Union Station doesn't allow it. But Bell said he does look at street musicians differently now.

"It's not really fun to be playing for people walking by," said Bell, who lives in New York City. "When I walk by, I always give something now because after my experience, I don't want to be the one who walks by and doesn't pay attention.

"I'm sometimes occasionally recognized by the street performers' and they say 'hey, thanks for that experiment because after that people are a little bit more aware of what we're doing here.'"

Critical thinking challenge: What was the point of the experiment seven years ago, and what did it prove?

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COMMENTS (36)
  • A.R.S
    10/02/2014 - 02:12 p.m.

    I would stop and listen even if it was for only a second. I enjoy music even though I don't play an instrument. It is cool that he had parents that encourage him to play.

  • ConnorK-2
    10/02/2014 - 08:32 p.m.

    The article discusses the issues and problems of school systems not having room for the music sand arts. Violinist Joshua Bell says "He was lucky to have parents to encourage him to play music.". In this generation music has become more of a hobby rather than a academic course. This article briefly talks about musicians not being noticed. Street musicians are commonly over looked because of every ones hectic lives. This article has enlightened my thoughts on the arts and how important they could be in our lives.

  • LaurenT-1
    10/02/2014 - 10:44 p.m.

    Seven years ago, Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist, played in a Washington subway as a experiment for a newspaper. He now insists that music programs be implemented in every school. He mentors young musicians now and will have a HBO special playing with them. At Washington's Union Station, Bell will soon play with nine of the children he has been teaching. Occasionally he is recognized by street performers who thank him for showing the world what they do.
    I believe that Bell's ideas of music programs touch on only a small portion of what opportunities could be given. Everybody has the right to find what suits them as a person and if music is it for them, then they should have the opportunity to go for it.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    10/03/2014 - 01:29 a.m.

    I think this is cool to experiment in the public because you get to see new people each time they stop by and look at what is going on. But, I don't think it would be necessary to do it on a subway because people are rushing and they don't have the time to look at what you are doing. On rare occasions, people might stop by, but that wouldn't work.
    Critical thinking challenge: What was the point of the experiment seven years ago, and what did it prove?
    Answer: The point of the experiment seven years ago was to see if commuters would notice some of the world's great music being played as they rushed to work. It proved that people needed music in some point of their lives.

  • JohnL-4
    10/03/2014 - 01:45 a.m.

    A Grammy winning violinist, Joshua Bell performed an experiment for people in the subway 7 years ago. Almost nobody stopped for him. Because of this, he is stressing that music should be taught in every school, so it can be more appreciated. He is going to be on an HBO special where he mentor's young musicians, and he released his Bach album last Tuesday. He has always played Bach, but just now started recording. Because of these experiences, he now looks at many rising musicians differently. I think that performing in the subway was a cool experiment because people could get an understanding of how much classical music needs to be brought back.

  • JesseE-2
    10/03/2014 - 02:57 a.m.

    Seven years ago, accomplished American violinist Joshua Bell completed a busking experiment in a Washington subway station to determine the commuter's interest in street musicians. Having found a severe lack of interest or care among the locals, he has since attempted to increase the significance of music to commoners. Upcoming on October 14, Bell will release a new album of orchestral or solo Bach covers, the first that he has recorded in a studio environment. On the same date, he will busk with a set of nine of his proteges at Washington's Union Station for an HBO special entitled "Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass."

    The article, being about my field of interest, was very interesting and engaging to me. Although I do not entirely agree with Joshua Bell on the subject, I do agree that music and appreciation of music should be taught to children and, like him, I always give something to busking musicians, be it a gesture or a tip, to show appreciation. The article was cleanly written, but many phrases and terms used in the article (such as "the composer Bach's") seemed to be pandered to an audience younger than that of which it was supposedly directed to.

  • 9agbarnes
    10/03/2014 - 10:10 a.m.

    The experiment was supposed to help the passer-by people recognize the amazing gifts people are blessed with. The experiment proved that not many people pay attention of the people that are blessed with these amazing talents. It makes myself be aware of the people that have these God given talents.

  • burtonn4
    10/03/2014 - 12:22 p.m.

    I played the violin and it was the world to me. Ever one who listens to any type of music know that they wish they could do that and you can't tell me you don't want that.

  • meadowsc5
    10/03/2014 - 12:59 p.m.

    I myself am in band at my high school and I totally agree with Bell, every student should have to graduate with a music or art credit. It has been known that students that are musically involved make better and higher grades than everyone else.

  • DannyS-Cal
    10/03/2014 - 03:36 p.m.

    I liked the article it was good. Seven years ago, the well known violinist named Joshua Bell performed for tips in a Washington subway station.

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