Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell delights masses at DC subway concert

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Joshua Bell performed the first movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

Back in 2007, pedestrians hurried by without realizing that the busker playing at the entrance to a Washington D.C. Metro stop was none other than the Grammy-winning Joshua Bell. Gene Weingarten wrote about the Washington Post social experiment (“In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”) and later won a Pulitzer Prize for his story.

In 2007, Grammy-winning Joshua Bell donned a baseball cap and played Bach on his violin during rush hour in a D.C. Metro station as part of a Washington Post social experiment.

Today, Bell set up at the entrance of Union Station. Seven years later, he held a very different kind of performance; this time, he was anything but ignored.

“Music — you need the give and take from the audience, the feeling of attention. It’s not about me its about the music itself,” Bell told senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown after the concert. “Today, I was a little bit surprised at how many people came. I was a little worried that when I agreed to do it that there might be only a handful of people and it might be embarrassing, so this far exceeded my expectations. I was so happy.”

Situated in the main hall, Bell, one of the most acclaimed classical musicians in the world, played Bach and Mendelssohn for a 30-minute performance to promote music education. He was accompanied by nine students from the National YoungArts Foundation. These young musicians are featured alongside the violin virtuoso in his HBO documentary special “Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass,” which will premiere on Oct 14.

“Where we need to work on is getting is making sure [music] is a part of everyone’s educational diet in the school. Music and art is part of what it means to be a human being and to be make it just an extra curricular thing is sad because most kids will not get any musical experience if they don’t have it in their school.”

Joshua Bell spoke to senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown about the important of music education just after his train station concert. See an excerpt from the interview below.

With more than 30 years as a celebrated violinist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums. Today, in conjunction with the train station concert, the violinist’s newest album was released.

Stay tuned for Joshua Bell’s full concert and more video excerpts. Jeffrey Brown’s interview with Bell will air on tonight’s PBS NewsHour.