Remember when classical violinist Joshua Bell played in the subway for 45 minutes and made $32? The author of the story raised questions about artistic context and the loss of appreciation for beauty in modern life. Many people point to stories like this as evidence of how hard it is to build an audience or make a living as a musician.
I disagree with the notion that musicians are somehow victims in a disconnected world that doesn’t care about art.
Live music makes a huge difference for people on the street, in hospitals, in war zones, refugee camps, schools, and all kinds of venues.
I would also argue that sharing music directly, without filters, is profoundly important for musicians to do more of. We should play in every circumstance we can, to grow and connect more deeply with every kind of audience in any kind of situation.
If we’re NOT performing, we owe it to ourselves to ask, “What’s holding me back?”, and/or “What am I afraid of?”
After working as a career coach for musicians the past few years, I’ve noticed that many of us hold ourselves back in similar ways for similar reasons. Those tendencies are rooted in psychology, and overcoming them will improve our lives, careers, and artistic growth in many ways.
Busking is something almost anyone can do. If you need a gig, or if you’re wondering what’s next in your musical development, go play on the street.
Our classical training may make us lose sight as musicians of the transforming effect we can have on people playing music live, even without the accoutrements of air conditioned venues, publicists, sheet music, prepared music, and finely pressed tuxedos.
Imagine if your Full Time Job consisted of playing multiple shows every day in busy intersections during 40 seconds at a red light? You’ve got 30 seconds to perform, and ten seconds to collect money and get out of the way. (See the video below for an example of this.)
I get excited thinking about sharing music outside of traditional performance spaces- That’s why at our annual summer conference we perform in a wide array of venues (including street corners).
The seed of this idea was planted for me 20 years ago playing on prison yards and hearing singing in the rows of cells within the solitary confinement wing. I saw music dissolve violence, replacing it with laughter, tears, and humanity.
I knew today’s guest would be the right person to convey this message- articulating what musical performance is really about, and how we as musicians can be present to it’s meaning.
I met up in Madrid with Valentin Spurchisi, a self-taught violinist who travels and lives from performing in the streets of Europe. Valentin had a successful career as an engineer and web designer in his early twenties before leaving that career to perform from subways to street corners all across Europe.
He chose to live this way. Some might call Valentin an “adult learner” on the violin. I call him an inspiration. I learned a lot from him, and I encourage you to listen in and decide for yourself.
In Creative Strings Podcast Episode 27 we discuss topics such as:
- Life as a street performer
- Packing a large performance into a small amount of time
- Transforming negative audience energy into something positive
- What goes into street performance and what sets performers apart
- What Joshua Bell’s famous experiment left out
- The trap of wanting fame
- The importance of doing what you want to do in life to be happy
- Persistence in doing what you want to do, regardless of the skepticism of others
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While you are talking to EVS, be sure to ask them about the new Yamaha Electric Violin (you can check out my video review here). I’ve been a Yamaha performing artist for almost 20 years now and am very proud to be a part of the Yamaha family.
Watch the extended conversation on YouTube:
Learn more about Valentin Spurchisi:
Clips used in this episode: