Would you Recognize Genius on Your Way to Work?

Mark Busse – 4 Comments

Joshua Bell Violinist

If you arrived in a transit station as you hurried to work and there was a nondescript young man in jeans, t-shirt and a baseball cap masterfully playing Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor on the violin, would you notice? If you noticed, would you stop and enjoy the moment? Would you recognize his talent and toss a buck or two into his violin case?

This is exactly what happened recently at Washington’s bustling L’Enfant Metro Station when Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, played his 300 year old Stradivarious anonymously and for free for the thousands of busy commuters like a regular street busker. Did anyone notice? In this moving Washington Post essay “Pearls Before Breakfast”, Gene Weingarten explores the idea of how seldom we pause in our busy lives to notice real genius and ponders the age old question “If a great musician plays great music, but no one hears… was he really any good?”

Read the full Washington Post article and watch video of Bell playing.

4 Responses to “Would you Recognize Genius on Your Way to Work?”

  1. Michelle

    There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog.
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

  2. Steve

    I dunno – I think that’s crap. It’s like saying that you can’t appreciate a Monet unless it’s hanging in a gallery! SawLady missed the entire point of the original article. When Davis is on stage, with headline billing with the NY Phil, he gets the accolades he deserves, but when the music is left to stand by itself, people pass him by. There is a common denominator here and that’s Davis. Though admittedly facing less pressure in the subway then on stage, he played the same. How can one performance be so heralded and one simple passed by?

    I am not discounting the differences of performing on stage vs. busking. It is a different audience and if we were talking about me standing on a corner busking, I would have to entirely revamp my approach to audience interaction. But this isn’t me, this is a master of the Violin. His audience passing him by, would have been the ones who would have showed him to see him play. The question the original article was posing was why did they not stop? Not why Bell failed in his performance.


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