New Year’s Resolution

On a cold January morning 5 years ago at a Metro station in Washington DC this man took out his violin and set up to busk.

Busker on the Washington DC metro


For about 45 minutes he played six pieces beginning with Chaconne by the legendary German composer Johann Bach. During that time, approximately 2,000 people passed by, most of them on their way to work.


People flowed by consumed by their day ahead, caught up in their own world. The occasional person paused for a few moments to listen but then raced on by.


The violinist received his first dollar after about 5 minutes of playing but the woman who threw the money in the hat, did so without stopping.


A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The boy stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.


The musician played continuously. Only 7 people stopped and listened for a short while. 27 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.17.


When he finished playing and silence took over.
No one noticed and no one applauded.
There was no recognition at all.

The violinist was Joshua Bell.


Joshua Bell (image from )


He is regarded as one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713 worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.


This was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.


This experiment raised several questions:

  • In an everyday setting, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context?


Based on the actions of 2000 people it would be fair to reach one possible conclusion:

If we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?


Some may argue that they don’t like classical music or that only a very few would know the real value and skill that went into creating a unique hand crafted musical instrument. Both are true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I think they may be missing the bigger point.


Our world can be filled with so much stress, hardship and tragedy but amongst all the darkness, beauty will continue to surround us even in the most unlikely settings.


My New Year’s resolution is to not let life pass me by, to remain open to all opportunities however simple or unexpected and embrace them fully.


I hope you will join me on the voyage of discovery in the year ahead…



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