The man in the baseball cap with a violin played six Bach pieces in a Washington DC train station on a chilly January morning in 2007. During that time of day, over 2,000 people walk through the station on their way to work.
3 minutes into his performance, a middle aged man slowed his pace, stopped for a few moments and then hurried on to his destination.
4 minutes into his performance, the violinist received his first dollar from a woman who threw the money in the violin case hat without stopping.
6 minutes into his performance, a young man leaned against the wall to listen for a minute or two, then looked at his watch and moved on.
10 minutes into his performance, a 3-year old boy stopped and watched in fascination but his mother tugged him along. This action was repeated by several other children. However, every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
Over the next 45 minutes only six people stopped and listened for a minute or two. About 20 people gave money but continued to walk on without stopping. The man collected a total of $32.
The man in the baseball cap with a violin was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. There in the train station he flawlessly performed some of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days prior, Bell had sold out a theater in Boston where seats averaged $100 each.
This social experiment was organized by the Washington Post to examine perception, taste and priorities.
We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Here’s video of Joshua’s experiment/performance.
By the way, Bell has just today released a new album, At Home with Friends, with guests including Sting and Dave Grusin. But don’t wait for those guys to show up at the train station.