top of page

Joshua Bell - a social experiment in the subway

Joshua Bell - Social Experiment - The Washington Post-1
Original graphics by Dusan Petricic

Happiness and beauty live in many, often short, moments and opportunities the world gives us every day. We have to be able to notice them. However, we first need to stop to be able to experience them and store them in our memory. Mindfulness and conscious practice of gratitude can radically change our view of the world and take our sense of happiness to an entirely different level.

That's why today, on the occasion of another Christmas, we would like to share with you the story of Joshua Bell, and then give you special Christmas wishes from Empowerment Coaching. Let them come true not only for Christmas!


A social experiment starring Joshua Bell

Action time: Monday morning. The setting is a subway station in Washington DC. At the station, a violinist plays pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Within an hour, the violinist will play 6 pieces. Several thousand people pass through the station at the same time. Most of them will be on their way to work.

In the 3rd minute, the first passerby noticed the musician playing. He slowed, paused for a few seconds, and hurried on.

In the 4th minute, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman dropped it into an open case and kept walking without stopping.

At 6 minutes, a young man stopped. He leaned against the wall to listen to the violinist play, but then looked at his watch and walked away.

In the 10th minute, a boy of several years stopped, but his mother pulled him by the hand, they had to hurry. The boy dragged by his mother kept turning his head towards the violinist. Several other children reacted the same way. Each time, without exception, the accompanying parent hurried the child to move on.

In the 45th minute, the violinist was still playing. So far, only 6 people have stopped by him for a while. About 20 people gave him money, but they didn't stop to listen to the music, they just kept walking.

After an hour, the musician finished playing and there was silence. No one noticed, and no one clapped. The violinist raised a total of $32.

No one knew that the violinist in the baseball cap was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists in the world.

The most expensive violin in the world, the Stradivarius from 1713, bought for $3.5 million, was played by, among others, one of the most difficult pieces ever written for violin - "Chaconne" by Johann Sebastian Bach. Nobody knew that Joshua was one of the few musicians in the world who could play this music.

Two days earlier, Joshua Bell had played a concert in Boston. All tickets, with an average price of $100, were sold out. His talent was applauded by a full house.

An experiment on Human Priorities

This is a true story. Joshua Bell took part in a social experiment organized by The Washington Post. The entire story was reported and published by The Washington Post in April 2007. The author won the Pulitzer Prize for this article.

The experiment was about perception and human priorities. One of the questions was:

Can we see beauty in an ordinary environment and at an unfavorable hour?

One of the important questions arising from this experiment is:

if we don't have time to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever composed, how many other things do we miss in life?

The next day after an anonymous performance in the subway, Joshua returned there with an official concert. This time many people watched and admired him. I strongly encourage you to watch at least the end of the video below starting at 17 minutes and 56 seconds.

How did the Washington subway experiment inspire others?

Interestingly, the unusual violin played by Joshua Bell belonged to Bronisław Huberman, an outstanding violinist from Czestochowa, Poland, and founder of the Israeli Philharmonic. Huberman received the instrument from Polish Count Jan Zamoyski. This item is one of the most expensive instruments in the world in its class.

Interestingly, a young boy who stopped to listen to the beautiful music performed by Joshua Bell in the Washington subway was found and became the hero of a children's fairy tale entitled "The Man with the Violin".

The author of the book is Kathy Stinson. The beauty of this book, in addition to Evan's beautiful true story, is also contained in the amazing illustrations by Dusan Petricic. The two images in this post are illustrations from this book.

Joshua Bell Social Experiment - The Washington Post - 2
Original graphics by Dusan Petricic


On the occasion of Christmas, we wish all of us Mindfulness and Gratitude—the ability to stop and notice all those wonderful diamonds that shine in our lives every day. You need to be able to notice them, illuminate them, and bring them out - just like the sun brings out the glow of sparks from the flakes of frozen snow.






/ . o \ /_ *_\

/ `, ..* \_

/ … `~ .\ /_ . * ., o\

/ … o .. ~ \ / . * …. . o.\ /_ ,,~~ ‘. * ‘ _\_

/`~,, ... o…….\:

/ .* …`’ * … ,’,..\ /_…..o ..~~,, , _\ / .. * ……..… ,, ~ ‘ \

/* …... o …_~`’*o\ -`-,,~’`’ * _ ,-´ ...……..”:——-:”………..... ……..…\_____/ ………….

Finally, I invite you to watch and listen to how Joshua Bell interprets the well-known jazz standard "Summertime". It's 2 minutes and 30 seconds of absolute virtuosity.

See also other coaching stories:

New Year resolutions for busy people

Pyrrhic victory. Will fulfilling your aspirations surely bring you happiness?

A Parable of Truth and Lie

Renoir - the pain passes and the beauty stays

Life wisdom of the Emir of Dubai

Personal Development - a parable of sculptor

Every obstacle is an opportunity

Wise support coaching. A parable of a man in the swamp

Coaching of being here and now

How can our handicap become our strength

About the role of a leader. The parable of the star

Words are of great importance. A parable of hammering the nails

The story of three bricklayers. Building cathedral story

Devil and his friend

A man who died while alive

Shake it off! About a donkey that could not be buried alive

Isn't man funny?

What difference do you make to the world?

Master and bell

Assertiveness at work


On Mother's Day

In a desperate search for happiness

Mindfulness Coaching

Things aren't always what they seem

Master and kite flying

What do heaven and hell look like

A master and a disciple just like me

Master and a full pitcher

Free life coaching exercises, templates, workbooks pdf

70 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page