Cool DC Events: The Return of Joshua Bell

As you may or may not know, or may have missed unknowingly, 7 years ago world-renowned violin master Joshua Bell dressed up as a street performer and was ignored by over a thousand commuters in the L’Enfant Plaza metro station in Washington, D.C. Furthermore, he was ignored while playing some of the most beautiful and technically challenging pieces in the repertoire.

In fact, as Bell played his golden age Stradivarius, only about 20 people appeared to notice, and only a handful recognized that they were in the presence of a real talent. Only one person recognized Bell as a celebrity musician! Hidden Washington Post reporters observed the event and interviewed several of the passers-by, contributing details to a feature article by Gene Weingarten.

The feature, entitled “Pearls Before Breakfast“, describes the event in a snappy, lighthearted fashion, but also manages to examine the greater themes at play in such an event; the inability of most people to discern beauty if not presented correctly, the relatively artless nature of D.C.’s political culture,  and the ramifications of a society that is always busy, replete with references to Kant and Tocqueville. The feature went on to receive a Pulitzer prize in 2008.

Why the history lesson, you may ask? Turns out that Bell has plans to return to rock the WMATA next week! A new WaPo article reveals that Bell expresses regret for the stunt, which has gained him considerable notoriety to the point that when people hear his name it’s the first thing they think of (rather than his prestigious musical career, which has included playing for royalty and U.S. presidents).

So to make it right, Bell will perform for 30 minutes, this time at Metro Center, next Tuesday (9/30) at 12:30pm. He will be accompanied by nine students who he taught for the National YoungArts Foundation, hoping to promote music education. He’s also at it to promote himself, via a new album releasing the same day and an HBO special about his work as a YoungArts mentor.

Having announced his presence this time around, we can expect that a large crowd will gather. It is, after all, a free chance to see a performance which you’d normally have to forgo a month’s worth of groceries to attend. Will you be there?

Here’s the original article:

And here’s a video of the first performance:

To get yourself more pumped for this performance, come to the Music Library and check out some Joshua Bell-related CDs! We have a CD released by the man himself, Poeme, the Bell-featuring soundtrack to The Red Violin, and a collection of Romantic violin sonatas that he plays on. Come by!