what to play

Last Wednesday after catching opening night at the New York Philharmonic’s Stravinsky festival, I descended into the 66th street subway and was met with the sound of a saxophone playing the opening notes of Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet music. What a coincidence, I thought, of all the things he could have been playing – !

Several folks I was with who had also just heard the same piece played by the Philharmonic, remarked on the serendipity of it all and dropped dollar bills and coins into the young man’s open case. He continued playing, impassively keeping his eyes on the sheet music propped up in front of him.

The next night I left Lincoln Center again (this time following the new production of Rossini’s Armida, at the Metropolitan Opera), and heard the same familiar strains floating up to meet me on the subway stairs. It was my turn to drop a few coins in the young man’s sax case – partly for his artistry, but mostly in support of his shrewd busking savvy.

Gotta give it to him, he knew what people wanted to hear. That, too, is a big part of being a performing musician.

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