Thursday, October 6, 2011

Music Under New York

Musicians and singers have been performing on the streets since before the roads were paved. Yet, modern urban artists get harassed for anything from panhandling to violating traffic laws. The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority approached the problem of the pesky artiste from a different angle. Tired of shooing classical violinists and African drummers off the subway steps and platforms, the MTA created Music Under New York, an officially endorsed program that lets artists perform on subways stations. The program supplies them with an MTA banner and schedule. However, it’s very competitive and not easy to get into.

Every year Music Under New York holds auditions in Grand Central Station for new performers, looking for musicians who reflect the New York City culture and diversity.  Auditions last a day and are open to public, but the applicants’ faith is decided by a panel of professionals from the music industry, cultural institutions, and MTA station operators.

The MUNY artists play everything from Beethoven to doo wop and from Spanish guitar to Russian harmonica. Many of them play unique instruments such as Chinese dulcimer, Senegalese kora, Andean pipes, and Aboriginal didjeridoo. Two or three musicians play a saw - yes, a large metal saw, which sounds like a cross between a violin and a flute.  But, even in this eclectic collection of creative minds, some stand out. Like The Opera Collective.

I could write about it, but instead I decided to post my radio interview with one of the Opera Collective members, Vaughn Lindquist, taken in the Times Square Subway stop to the accompaniment of the passing trains and rushing commuters.


  1. Wow. How cool that a government department is forward thinking and is doing something constructive and encouraging for artists. Thanks for letting us know about this, Lina!

  2. I'm with Alli. The awesome music in NY subway stations is one of my favorite things about the city. So glad to hear it's being highlighted in a positive way. And cool radio clip, Lina!

  3. I love street musicians (and subway performers as well). It's always seemed a thankless activity since your audience is always on their way somewhere else. I didn't know that NY had a program like this, though. It's a good model for other cities.