Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Famous violinist faces rush hour

The Washington Post ran this story, "Pearls Before Breakfast," about Joshua Bell, a world-famous violinist, who played for about 45 minutes at a D.C. Metro stop during rush hour. Bell, who has played before heads of state and whose tickets cost $100 for the worst seats, agreed to work with the Post for the story, by appearing as a street musician.

The resulting story is really interesting. It's kind of a cultural study on what busy commuters will do in the face of a master (the answer: Not much). It's also a profile of Bell, who is used to being received as a virtuoso by sophisticated audiences and finds himself feeling nervous and awkward in front of the Metro users.

Writer Gene Weingarten did a great job at weaving in facts about Bell, classical music and and the commuter's behavior making the piece really dense, but fascinating. There was a hidden camera at the stop, so the reporter was able to go back and review the expressions of people and their actions when passing the musician (you can watch video clips as part of the story). Weingarten also talked to several of the commuters who passed by. My favorite anecdote was from a rushed mom who was taking her 3-year-old son to daycare, and the son kept craning his neck, trying to slow her down so he could listen to the music.

Anyway, check out the story when you have some time (it's long) and share what you think.