Who is playing that beautiful music in the subway? And why is nobody listening?
On January 12, 2007, the world-famous violinist Joshua Bell took part in an experiment conducted by the Washington Post. What would happen if Bell played his violin in a subway station? Would anyone stop to listen? Dressed as an ordinary street musician and with his priceless Stradivarius in hand, Bell played for 43 minutes in the L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. Over 1,000 busy commuters rushed past. Only seven stopped to listen for more than a minute. Many children had wanted to stop, but an adult inevitably rushed them along. Inspired by this event, author Kathy Stinson imagines what a child who had wanted to stop might have experienced. From this emerged the lovely story ofThe Man with the Violin.
When young Dylan hears the beautiful music, he tries to get his mother to stop and listen, but like everyone else rushing past, she is focused on catching the train. The strains of the music linger in his head all day long until that evening, when he hears the same music being played on the radio. The announcer reveals who the violinist was and why he was playing in the subway station. As Dylan is swept up again by the gorgeous sound, his mother finally stops and listens too.
Award-winning illustrator Dušan Petričić eagerly embraced the challenge of rendering Stinson’s lyrical text in a way that would capture Dylan’s emotions while interpreting the sounds he heard. With his skillful use of color and imaginative depiction of all the sounds in the subway station, Petričić succeeds in providing the perfect match for the poignant words. Together, Stinson and Petričić have created a picture book classic that reminds us all to open our eyes and ears to discover the beauty around us.
A short biography of Joshua Bell, a recap of the story that inspired this book, and a postscript by Joshua Bell enhance this wonderful tribute to the power of music.
The story of Joshua Bell's performance in the subway is one that repeatedly makes it way around Facebook and other social media sites. It is a true story, and one that serves to remind us to take a moment every once in a while, to really appreciate the world around us. Common cliches, such as "Stop and smell the roses" pop into my mind whenever I read about this story. It's something that we often forget to do as adults, as we feel the pressure to move from Point A to Point B, to hurry, hurry, HURRY!
Children don't operate that way. They are filled with wonder at the world around them, often pausing to take it all in. We used to be that way. And then we were trained to stop being so observant.
This story serves as a reminder to us to stop and listen to what children have to say when they notice something beautiful. It reminds us to appreciate the finer things in life, such as the beautiful music that Mr. Bell creates with his violin. Within all of the hustle and bustle of our modern lives lies so much beauty that we keep missing.
Of course, this book primarily focuses on the music. This is emphasized in the illustrations. Dylan's world is black and white, except for himself and his mother. As the music envelops him, his world becomes brighter and filled with color, demonstrating how music is so enriching. In addition to the visual representation of the music are a lot of descriptive words about the clanging and noise that is stifling the music and adding to the chaos.
This is a picture book that would be great for older children in musical education or biographical studies. For younger audiences, the story itself will probably go over their heads. I would read it to them, anyway, and play some of Joshua Bell's music while doing so. Or, treat them to a video of one of his performances on YouTube afterwards. You may be surprised at the impact such music will have on them. You may also find yourself being impacted more than you know.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The review was originally published on Examiner.