Violinist wants kids to have music in their lives
Seven years ago, the well known violinist Joshua Bell performed for tips in a Washington subway station and almost no one stopped to listen.
The underground performance was an experiment with The Washington Post, 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 newspaper 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 that'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, this time with some notice for music fans. Bell planned to perform works by Bach and Mendelssohn for the lunch hour crowd on Capitol Hill at 12:30 p.m., along with 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 but 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?