On a cold January morning in a Washington, DC Metro Station, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time about two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After three minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
Four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk. After 6 minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. After ten minutes, a 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
In the end, only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32. When he finished playing, no one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
The performance was organized as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities. In a common place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do you perceive beauty? Do you stop to appreciate it? Do you recognize talent in an unexpected context?
If you do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, how many other things might you be missing?