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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wait,...What Was That?


Every once in a while I come across an article so poignant and moving that I opt to share it here in hope that the piece receives the attention it deserves. I don't know who to attribute it to, but the message it contains and the thoughts it provokes are worthy or our attention.

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 1,100 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 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 till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned 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 one 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. This 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 their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater 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. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

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?

Let's not create and sustain a school environment that becomes so focused on tests and standardized curricula confined to a lock-step progression that our children end up as indifferent to the world around them as these people who couldn't or wouldn't make the time to appreciate a source of unique beauty and wonderment. 

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer L. TucciMay 10, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Dear Dr. Mugits, This entry speaks volumes about the importance of preserving the Arts and Humanities in public education. The loss of art, music, foreign language and the like is surely a detriment to the 21st-century learner. Once children no longer stop to smell the roses on their own, it is the educator's mission to show them how once again.

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