“Stop and smell the roses”, the old adage says, but how about “stop and hear the music?” This new picture book by Kathy Stinson, with illustrations by Dušan Petričić provides an account of an event that took place during rush hour in a Washington D.C. metro station six years ago. One January morning, renowned violinist Joshua Bell, incognito in jeans, long sleeved T-shirt, and baseball cap, set himself up in the station and commenced playing six classical pieces on a Stradivarius. All in all, only seven people stopped to listen. According to Bell there were many children who attempted to stop, but were rushed along by their parents. After forty-three minutes of playing, the violinist, who typically plays to sold-out concert halls, had collected a meager $32.17 in his open violin case.
Petričić’s fanciful drawings are mainly in black and white but contain splashes of color that highlight the young protagonist’s experience with the music and convey the sensation of being hurried through the station. These illustrations are more successful than the text in retelling the anecdote from a child’s perspective. Adults might receive the book as an admonishment or as a criticism of harried lives that don’t allow for a moment’s pause to perceive beauty. They might suffer second-hand embarrassment on behalf of the masses of commuters who did not recognize greatness as they rushed to catch their trains. Children, however, will likely enjoy the illustrations, and share the initial curiosity and eventual joy of young Dylan in realizing that he was right in wanting to stop and listen. 2013.
Here is Joshua Bell and a chamber group performing Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in C Major: