A moment to listen.


After a long workday, I hustled down to the Red line Lake stop, as is my normal, rat race routine. Sweaty, hot, annoyed. I could tell from the number of people standing at the Lake platform that the Howard train was backed up. F*ck. Can’t I just get home already?

And then I heard the most beautiful, soaring music echoing through the underground station. An unassuming guy in a polo shirt and khakis was playing “O Mio Babbino Caro” on his violin with breathtaking skill and passion. It started unaccompanied, and then a tasteful piano arrangement joined in on his little boombox. The music swelled to crescendo and conclusion. And I stood there slack-jawed.

I looked around to see if anyone else was paying attention.

A guy was texting, another girl talked on the phone. A couple was having an argument. Earbuds were firmly planted in ear canals. It was business as usual, despite the clearly accomplished musician a few feet away trying to earn a few extra bucks.

But then the most amazing thing happened. There was a long gap between north and southbound trains — about 10 minutes. During those few minutes, he calmly began his next tune. The din dimmed, and the phones and iPods were put away for a few moments. Then, one person gave him a dollar. And then another. And another. I think about 15 people (including me) gave him monetary recognition for his impromptu concert in the makeshift concert hall. More importantly, I’d say nearly everyone in that station was paying attention. Just for a moment.

There is hope for humanity after all.

Reminds me of this (but with a happier ending):

4 thoughts on “A moment to listen.

  1. I’m so happy that people stopped to listen. The piece about Joshua Bell in DC bothered me. Perhaps people read about it and decided to listen more?

    1. Or, maybe us folks in Chicago are more tuned-in to talent when we hear it! I think there’s something to be said about playing in a high-traffic zone where people have to get from point A to B. I’m not sure I’d be paying attention, either, if I’m trying to catch a train.

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