I’ve had a crush on Joshua Bell since about 2001, when I was introduced to him by my then violinist boyfriend. It was also about the time my roommate was watching The Red Violin and bored, I watched it with him in amazement (I quickly bought the CD which I think I still have). Maybe that was my “violin phase” or was I appreciating classical music a bit more since I had just moved to Capitol Hill amongst the beautiful classical buildings and upper crusty jerks? Either way, I’ve followed Joshua since then off and on.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I guess it was about 2007 when I was working in Santa Monica, I found some half priced tickets available to see him at the Disney Concert Hall. Since I knew I had to see a concert there before moving back east AND it was Joshua Bell, that was a no brainer. For the first time ever (and since), I went to a concert by myself. It was an odd experience even though I was pretty familiar with traveling, eating in restaurants and going to movies by myself. Of course the music was amazing and Joshua did not disappoint. I remember having a moment just after the concert, when I found a spider hanging down in front of me in the driver’s seat. I took care of him, then I sat and cried. It was just too much…the beautiful music, the concert hall, and the conflicting lonely feelings I had. Then I audibly laughed at myself as I drove home.
This morning, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Me and the Girl from Clapham, and she mentioned this study I had heard of but never knew the details:
“Earlier this week I read a blogpost by Jay Wilson, who was at university at the same time as me, and is a passionate and talented musician. He linked through to a fascinating experiment conducted by the Washington Post. They invited one of the greatest musicians in the world, a violinist named Joshua Bell to busk in a busy Metro station. He played some of the finest and most complex pieces of music ever written on one of the rarest and most beautiful instruments ever crafted for almost an hour.
How many people recognised his craft or were arrested by the beauty of the moment?
1,097 people passed him.
27 people gave him money – a total of $32.17.
Hardly anyone stopped to listen.”
I never knew the musician was Joshua Bell, and I never knew that it was in Washington, DC! So, of course, this hit home a bit more than normal. It could have been me that walked right by (it wasn’t in this case)! You know when you find out about studies where people didn’t stop to help someone in need, and you think to yourself, “Oh, I would stop.” But then, so do those other people who kept walking, too.
I was pleased that The Girl from Clapham shared her insights on discovering the beauty in every day things because it really helped me focus (unfocus?) and see some pretty neat things I maybe would have missed earlier. And I was also happy that she posted a link to the original Washington Post article, too, which is excellent. Totally worth a read if you have a few minutes.
The point is, if Joshua Bell were playing in the street today, would I recognize him? Or better yet, would I recognize the beauty of the music and stop and listen, no matter who is playing? What else is out there that I’m missing? What about the feelings of the violinists…at least Joshua knows he will be getting accolades and standing ovations at his next sold out show, but the man on the street probably won’t be. It may make his day to have an appreciative audience for just one minute. The act of stopping to recognize beauty is also a beautiful act in itself.