I spent a year of my life trying to make sure that I could sit examinations that would allow me entry to university. I had already lived for a year on the Island of Iona where I had spent time in the quiet of the place doing the first real study I had ever done in my life. It was all new to me. School had been a bit of a non starter for many reason and i had left with no qualifications.
Having proved to myself that I could study and that I could pass examinations I left Iona and returned to city life where i could make the final push towards entry. I lived by making jewellery from bamboo, selling newspapers in Princess Street in Edinburgh and doing a few shifts as a barman in one of the hotels.
The one thing I probably could have done was busk, for some reason I never did this. But today let me share with you a true story.
A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the hat without stopping and continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned up against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly, he was late for work.
The person who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. The action was repeated by several other children.
All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk at their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there and recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a performance in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real 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 priorities of people.
Here is a thought to think about: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, HOW MANY OTHER THINGS ARE WE MISSING?
Learn to stop and smell the roses once in a while…you never know what you might miss!