Pearls before Breakfast - this has absolutely nothing to do with real pearls, but the story is so fascinating I'm including it here. How often do we miss the extraordinary (in this case Joshua Bell violin expertise) that is right before our eyes and ears. Please remember to take time to listen!
In 2008, Gene Weingarten won the Pulitzer for his Washington Post article, “Pearls before Breakfast.” The story is now frequently folded into our current dialogue on cultural appreciation, or the loss of it, but it bears retelling: in collusion with the Post, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played for 48 minutes in a busy D.C. metro station to a crowd of commuters.
Speculation surrounded the event. Would Joshua Bell be recognized? Will the commuters be naturally drawn to this immensely talented musician playing some of the most exquisitely rendered pieces of classical music? How much money would Bell collect in his case?
If you know the end of the story, you know that no crowds gathered and only a handful of people actually stopped to listen, only one of whom recognized the great musician. Bell collected almost $40 in change for his work, and half of that came from the twenty dollar bill handed to him by the sole person to recognize him. Finally, the only demographic of passersby that routinely twisted their heads, turning to listen, were children who were ultimately hurried on by the pressing hands of their parents.
Weingarten’s piece did not wholly condemn the working population of D.C.; he pointed out that the value of art is frequently measured in context and not everyone could be expected to hear and recognize genius as he passed it by on his way to his connecting train. He did note, however, that the priorities of most Americans — work and productivity — tend to leave little time to appreciate things like beauty and art. Many passersby cited a big meeting or business deal that hustled them on their way; others missed the music entirely, choosing distraction in a set of headphones to get them through the morning commute.