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Classical to-go violinI am intrigued by the incongruous and unexpected. I love being surprised by beauty in the simplest moments. It can happen at any time. Extraordinary talent can be anywhere. Literally. At the bus station, the metro, or perhaps a local bookstore or cafe.

Symphonies around the world are looking for new ways to woo younger audiences into the concert halls, as their traditional audiences age and ticket sales dwindle. If young people won’t come to the symphony, the obvious thing to do is bring the symphony to them. [images from morguefile.com, composite by moi]

The Oregon Symphony: Playing Outside the Box

The Oregon Symphony did just that … took their the music to the streets with their  Classical Close-Up and Blitz Concerts. All intended to make the world of classical music accessible to all, in  fun and informal settings such as Powell’s Books, outdoor plazas, churches and cafes. They hope to bring new friends and families to the symphony, while sharing their passion for music.

Flash Mob Philharmonic: Copenhagen Metro

The Copenhagen Philharmonic went one step further… They took their music right onto the train flash-mob style, playing Peer Gynt to a car full of amazed and delighted commuters.

Bus Station Beethoven

At the Haymarket Bus Station in Newcastle, England, a pianist took the interactive approach. He engaged willing commuters to help him play what he calls Beethoven’s “Bus Station Sonata”. A refreshingly fun endeavor.

Metro Maestro: Joshua Bell Incognito in a D.C. Metro

A conversation about extraordinary music in everyday places wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Joshua Bell’s 2007 performance in a Washington D.C. metro station at rush hour. Many of you may have already heard about the experiment initiated by Gene Weingarten for The Washington Post. The purpose was to see how many harried commuters would take the time to listen to Joshua Bell, one of the nation’s greatest violinist, if he appeared incognito as a typical busker. You can read the full story here. It’s amazing. The premise of the experiment was…

 In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Sadly, in this case it didn’t. People rushed by, some kind enough to toss a few coins or a dollar bill into his open violin case. But the majority of the crowd didn’t even acknowledge his existence. He made a total of $32.00 in the 45 minutes he played on that Friday morning. That’s not counting the $20.00 given to him by the ONE person recognized him. Though, what was truly mind-boggling was over one thousand people couldn’t spare a few minutes to  listen to some of the most exquisite music in the world played on one of the most priceless instruments. Beauty brought right to them … on their way to work … only three feet away.

In October 2014, Joshua Bell played an encore at Washington DC’s Union station. This time thousands packed the venue for the phenomenal free concert. You can read more about it here.

Extraordinary talent can be found in the most ordinary places. But the performers don’t have to be world-famous to be worth our time. Appreciate the beauty they bring into the world. Stop and listen. Enjoy the music.

Have you ever had an encounter with unexpected beauty,
musical or otherwise?