What Joshua Bell's Famous Subway Experiment Left Out

February 27, 2018, 11:07 AM · Remember when classical violinist Joshua Bell played in the subway for 45 minutes and made $32? The author of the story raised questions about artistic context and the loss of appreciation for beauty in modern life.

Many people point to stories like this as evidence of how hard it is to find an audience or make a living as a musician. I disagree with the notion that musicians are somehow victims in a disconnected world that doesn’t care about art. Live music makes a huge difference for people on the street, in hospitals, in war zones, refugee camps, schools, and all kinds of venues...

I would also argue that sharing music directly, without filters, is profoundly important for musicians to do more of. We should play in every circumstance we can, to grow and connect more deeply with every kind of audience in any kind of situation. That's why I covered the Life and Art of Street Performers in today's new episode of the Creative Strings Podcast.

Valentin Spurchisi
Street Performer Valentin Spurchisi.

If we’re not engaging others and ourselves in music, we owe it to ourselves to ask, “What’s holding me back?”, and/or “What am I afraid of?”

After working as a career coach for musicians the past few years, I’ve noticed that many of us hold ourselves back in similar ways for similar reasons. Those tendencies are rooted in psychology, and overcoming them can improve our lives, careers, and artistic growth in many ways.

Busking is something almost anyone can do. If you need a gig, or if you’re wondering what’s next in your musical development, go play on the street.

Our classical training may make us lose sight as musicians of the transforming effect we can have on people playing music live, even without the accoutrements of air conditioned venues, publicists, sheet music, prepared music, and finely pressed tuxedos.

Imagine if your Full Time Job consisted of playing multiple shows every day in busy intersections during 40 seconds at a red light? You’ve got 30 seconds to perform, and ten seconds to collect money and get out of the way. (See the video on this page for a demonstration by today's podcast guest).

I get excited thinking about the organic, communal aspects of sharing music outside of traditional performance spaces- That's why at our annual summer conference  we perform in a wide array of venues (including street corners).

I met up in Madrid with Valentin Spurchisi, a self-taught violinist who travels and lives from performing in the streets of Europe. Valentin had a successful career as an engineer and web designer in his early twenties before leaving that career to perform from subways to street corners all across Europe.

He chose to live this way. Some might call Valentin an "adult learner" on the violin, but I call him a sage. I encourage you to listen and learn, as I have, from his amazing and inspiring example.

In Creative Strings Podcast Episode 27 we discuss topics such as:
• Life as a street performer
• Packing a large performance into a small amount of time
• Transforming negative audience energy into something positive
• What goes into street performance and what sets performers apart
• What Joshua Bell's famous experiment left out
• The trap of wanting fame
• The importance of doing what you want to do in life to be happy
• Persistence in doing what you want to do, regardless of the skepticism of others

LISTEN to This Episode (Thanks to Yamaha Strings and the Electric Violin Shop for their ongoing support of the Creative Strings Podcast):

Talk soon,


February 28, 2018 at 02:31 PM · I was a busker in 1972-1973. I started in London, then to Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal,Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. My book:THE JOURNEY should be released this month.One Christmas I played duets with my brother Lee Lufkin in San Francisco. Joshua showed the difference between the common working mans cultural heritage here and abroad. Of course location, location, location. A busy subway is not a place to busk. Pastor Mickey Lufkin

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine