Joshua Bell in the subway

There is a well-circulated story about an experiment that had violinist Joshua Bell playing Bach suites in a New York subway. This got very little crowd response, and only $32, which disappointed many readers of the story. This was an interesting experiment. However, many potentially wonderful ramifications are overlooked in analyses.

You will never know how many people appreciated the music and even were inspired. They were there to catch a subway and stopping was simply not an option; but they still heard the music; and even a little can make an impression. Not everyone likes classical music, violin, or street musicians of any kind; yet this may have opened them up to something new. Still others may have recognized Bell, and Bach, but did not want to interrupt or seem foolish: “what would I say to Joshua Bell?”

Outer recognition, applause and money are parts of the business of music; but not the only parts.