Violinist Josua Bell

That was a chilly Winter morning on the 12th of January,2007..Standing quietly in one corner of the ever busy L’Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington, D.C. a Violinist,wearing a baseball cap and blue jeans,was playing Violin..

Displaying amazing talent in playing solo Violin,that Violinist gave a truly incredible performance there,at the subway,for about forty five minutes..

And this is what has happened..

During those forty five minutes of musical extravaganza..

During those forty five minutes,about 1097 commuters passed  through that station with literally none of them paying any attention to that mind soothing music from the Violinist..

However,during the third minute of the performance,a middle aged man noticed that a Violinist is performing there in that busy subway..This man just paused there; looked at the Violinist for a few seconds and then moved away to attend to his daily work..

In the fourth minute – the Violinist received the first tip of the day from a lady who had thrown a one dollar note into the Violinist’s till and quickly moved away without even noticing who that amazing Violinist was..

In the eighth minute,a man leaning against a pillar – that’s there a few yards away from the place where the Violinist was performing – started observing the Violinist’s performance..

That man too quietly observed the Violinist just for a few seconds; later looked at his watch and quickly walked away from that place without bothering to pay any further attention to that amazing performance of the great Violinist..

In all,during his forty five minutes of scintillating performance there,the maximum attention the Violinist received was from a three year old boy..This boy,with his eyes wide open,observed the Violinist for almost three minutes in a row..

That was all the time the boy’s mother allowed the boy to stay there and later she forcibly took him away from that place much against his desire to stay there for a few more minutes…All through the way the boy just kept looking back at the Violinist in the subway..

A few more children of similar age too wanted to stay there and enjoy the amazing performance of the Violinist but they too were ruthlessly denied that priceless pleasure by their busy parents..

Solo Violin

During those forty five minutes of that great performance by the Violinist there,only six among the 1097 commuters paused in front of the Violinist for a few seconds and later briskly moved away..

Only twenty out of those 1097 commuters have donated some cash to the Violinist but they too were not bothered to know whom they are donating to and who that great Violinist was…They just moved away quickly without even stopping and looking at the face of the great Violinist..

All that the great Violinist received,for his forty five minutes of some mind blowing musical performance there at the subway station,was a meager thirty two dollars.

There was an echoing silence all around the subway station,when the violinist suddenly stopped playing his Violin…

But none of the busy commuters passing through that the station noticed that sudden silence in the air nor anyone applauded in appreciation of the Violinist..

But unfortunately..

None of those busy commuters there know..

That they have just watched one of the world’s most talented and the most amazing Violinists called Joshua Bell – who became a child prodigy after performing at New York’s Carnegie Hall,at age seventeen,in 1985  – playing in front of them,at the subway,some of the most intricate set of six works called Sonatas and Partitas,on his solo Violin..

None of those commuters there know that the Violin,on which the great Violinist so far performed in front of them,is a four hundred year old Violin to own which the great Joshua Bell had actually paid a whopping 3.5 million dollar to a thief on his deathbed..

None of those 1097 commuters there know that just a night before that performance in front of them at the busy subway station,the amazing Joshua Bell had given a live performance at a popular Boston theater,to a packed house,with each ticket there sold for a minimum price of hundred dollars..

Finally,none of those subway commuters there know that the great Violinist Joshua Bell had performed in front of them,at the busy subway station,as part of a unique experiment Gene Weingarten of Washington Post was conducting there to measure the exact amount of time people actually spend to pay attention to such beautiful things happening in and around them on a busy day..

There were many hidden cameras there in the subway station,capturing each and every moment of Joshua Bell’s performance and the movement of the commuters there in the subway,but neither the commuters nor the great Joshua Bell know about it..

Later when Gene Weingarten presented these subway findings in his book “The Fiddler In The Subway”,the book won him a well deserved Pulitzer Prize….


Our life is always about many small things and little pleasures which may seem very meaningless and impractical when we are busy pursuing our goals…However,by the time we reach our goals and accomplish our tasks  it will be too late for us to realize what we have thus far lost in our life..

If we always keep the eyes of our mind wide open then there are many amazing things in this beautiful world waiting to give us enough reasons to smile ..And music is certainly one among them..