Book #186: The Man with the Violin

ViolinThis is a picture book I like more for the backstory then the actual illustrations or writing, but I thought it was worth a mention. Ray, being a young Suzuki violinist, likes this book a lot.

The book fictionalizes an amusing real-life event at L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. in 2007.  Joshua Bell, a world-famous violinist, played on his Stradivarius for 43 minutes in the subway station. Nobody noticed. Though dressed like an ordinary street musician, Joshua Bell’s sounds were anything but ordinary. Very few people, including a few children, stopped to actually listen to the music.  The children in particular were ushered on by their parents.

Here’s a link, if you are so inclined.

The picture book follows one little boy whose mother would not let him stop and listen.

“Please, Mom? Can’t we stop? Please?”
If only they could listen for even a minute!
“Not today.”

At home that evening, the radio announcer tells the story of the virtuoso who played for thousands but was never heard. Dylan tells his mother, and they dance together in the living room, listening to the sound of the wondrous music.

This was an interesting experiment, but ultimately unfair, I think. Joshua Bell played Ave Maria during rush hour in a busy American city when people were hurrying to get to work. That so many people didn’t stop to listen to the violin is testament to the fact that they  had jobs with bosses and responsibilities and probably time cards. I’d like to watch Joshua Bell play some leisurely Sunday morning around ten a.m. in the same station and see who doesn’t stop.  Or listen.  ABZ

the man with the violin -- cat bone

the man with the violin -- mom dragging

the man with the violin -- josh bell

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  1. This experiment is very interesting! I will definitely read this book to my kids someday. I think that Joshua Bell decided to play during rush hour on purpose. He wanted to see if busy people would stop and take the time to listen to classical music. If the people in the station recognized that he was the famous Joshua Bell, more people would have stopped to listen even if it meant they would be late to work. People didn’t even notice him, there was very little eye contact. Even those in line for lotto tickets and people on the escalator didn’t look up. I agree that he probably would have drawn a crowd if he played on a Sunday morning, but I think he wanted to see if people who had commitments would take the time to “stop and smell the roses.”

Something to say?