The Man With the Violin

Joshua Bell performs incognito in Washington, D.C. Metro station

In a Washington, D.C. Metro station on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces. During his performance approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes after the young man began playing a middle aged man slowed his pace and turned to look at the musician, but kept on walking.

Half a minutes later the violinist received his first dollar; a woman threw the money in the hat without stopping.

Not until six minutes into the performance did someone actually stand against a wall and listen.

A three-year old boy tried to stop and listen but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped and looked at the violinist again, but the mother pushed harder and the child continued to walk, turning his head to look at the musician as he walked away. This action was repeated by several other children; parents, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

In the forty-three minutes that the violinist played, seven people stopped what they were doing to take in the performance. Twenty-seven gave money – most of them on the run – for a total of $32 and change. The remaining 1,070 people hurried by, oblivious to the music, few even turning to look. As he finished playing, silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded. He received no recognition.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days prior, Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people’s priorities (Read the full, original Washington Post article here).

In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing in life?

Check prices for accommodations in Washington, D.C. at,, or Read reviews about hotels in Washington, D.C. at TripAdvisor.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to hotel booking sites. If you click on any of the links and make a booking, I may earn a small commission, which keeps this blog free to read.


15 thoughts on “The Man With the Violin”

  1. Nice Post Barbara! I liked the way you are following your passion, most of us don’t. Wish you all the very best in you journey ahead! cheers!

  2. Awesome Man!

    I too love to listening such music & I could be from such child’s category… Wonderful I would expect to go on & on…..

  3. What I find most amazing is the amount of interest from children. Shows age doesn’t mean you have taste. Perhaps we could learn more from children!

  4. This is one of the joys of having grown up in New York City. My parents always allowed me to stop and listen to the street musicians and performers. I was always given some change to put into their hats or guitar cases. I have bought CD’s from up and coming artists on the streets of New York; people who were handing out their music for free just so that people could hear them. To not share that joy with your children is depriving them of artistic culture. I am grateful to have grown up with parents who appreciated the fine arts. I have passed that along to my children as well.

    • Thank you so much, CP and Pocket Queen! My blog is my passion in life and when I hear it touches someone, well, that touches me. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking time to leave a comment.

  5. That is a really interesting experiment, and I agree. We, in modern society at large, miss on way too much.
    Also, I just suscribed to your feed.. I came to this blog directed by a link from Miss Britt, and I have to say, I absolutely love your pictures.. they move me. They just take you away, you know? Make you feel like your right there, almost feel what you must’ve felt when you took it. And, what a way to capture beauty (which relates a little to this post). You are truly talented, I am so glad you quit your job to take pictures and write! We all enjoy!

  6. Pingback: The Man With The Violin | Washington Travel - Culture and Recreation
  7. Sad but true. We take so much for granted that we don’t stop, look, listen to what is around us and just breathe. I know that I am guilty of this on a daily basis. Thanks for the reminder that I need to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me every day!

  8. I have heard of this kind of experiment before with much the same results. People stereotype performance with location. A handful of restaurants have tried a pay what it is worth approach, some with excellent results and others with poor results. Extraordinary experience for those who did stop and listen.

  9. Wow, I hadn’t heard that story before! I’m a classical musician and certainly know who Joshua Bell is, so part of me is shocked that people wouldn’t stop and pay attention to music that beautiful (most street musicians can’t play at his caliber). But I suppose we do all get so hurried and caught up with our own busy lives that we don’t take the time to stop and notice the beautiful things around us. That experiment definitely made a good point!
    .-= Emily @ Maiden Voyage´s last blog ..Guest post at Europe a la Carte: Hadrian’s Wall Country =-.

  10. How true, we miss so much, life goes on, we are always running from one thing to the other. How do we stop? When do we take time to appreciate the wonders that this world has to offer? That is the million dollar question….


Leave a Comment