The Audience Gives Energy to the Performer

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October 10, 2007
By Posted in Times Square Subway Station | 2 Comments »

At 11:35AM I arrived at the Music Under New York spot at Times Square. Steven Clark, the Michael Jackson impersonator, was there, but he hadn’t set up yet. He was waiting to see if a permitted musician might show up for the noon time slot before he went into all the trouble of setting up. No point in setting up only to have to pack up a few minutes later…
He was totally cool about surrendering the spot to me. We are long time subway buddies.

Steven Clark

While I was talking with Steven a lady stopped to give me a hug – it was an x-bell-ringer from my handbell choir. She told me her daughter, Emma, sees me in the subway often.

By the wall to the left of our spot the same church missionaries who have been frequenting the Times Square subway station lately were there, with their long table and multiple big advertisement signs.

On the right hand side there was a bold guy sitting on the floor next to the ramp to the downtown platform’s elevator. He was sitting with his back to the railing, holding a red bag, his head bowed down, sleeping.

In front of me there was a lady handing flyers by the ATM machines.

me at Times Square
Photo by John Sarsgard

At noon Steven returned and asked me to watch his stuff while he goes upstairs for a little while.

It was a very hot and humid day. A guy with curly grey hair whom I often see at Times Square was carrying a huge bag. He told me that he is getting ready to leave NYC in a couple of months. I asked him where he is going. He said he doesn’t know. He wants to buy land and build a house. I asked him where he wants to build his house – he said he doesn’t know…

Geovanni Sequillo the mandolin and guitar player, was looking for a spot and so was Ming Jing Zheng, the cello player.
At 12:35 Steven returned, collected his gear and went looking for a spot to perform.

Geovanni Ming Jing

A girl from Korea said that she visited NYC two years ago and saw me at the Times Square subway station. Now she is visiting NYC again, and here I am in the same spot!

At 12:40 the lady who loves to watch people’s faces as they discover me playing walked by. While walking by me she mimed to me the shocked/surprised/amazed facial expressions and gestures people exhibit as they watch me play.

A guy in a sailor’s hat pulled a small bugle out of his bag and asked me ‘can I join you?’

At 1pm two policemen arrived and leaned on the railing by the shuttle area. At that same moment I tore a string on my bow.

me and police
Photo by John Sarsgard

At 1:15 the friendly homeless guy walked by. He was wearing a shirt I never saw him wear before. At that moment I broke a second string on my bow.

A blond lady told me that I look like a female version of John Lennon…

Lawrence Rush, a singer, headed towards the shuttle with his performing gear and waved a cheerful hello to me. We met at a dance studio way before either of us became a professional busker. Lawrence was a good ballroom dancer.

Lawrence Rush

At 1:30 Lydia from Arts for Transit walked by with a group of Parsons College students who were studying the art work in the MTA. They stood and looked at the Lichtenstein painting on the wall in front of me for a while.


A guy I see often in the subway, who calls me “Natalie Wood” stood by me for a long time. He told me that he loves classic movies. He said he was 50 years old on September 2nd and that he is from Puerto Rico. I asked him where he was going now. He said “just walking around Times Square”. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a person is homeless or not. Or what their business is exactly as they ‘just walk around Times Square’.

The barefoot guitar player walked to the N/R/W/Q trains platform. A little while later he came back. I waved to him and he nodded back.

Barefoot guitar player

The “bird guy” walked by. I am always made aware of his presence by the sound of bird chirping he makes. I think he makes these bird calls with his mouth, but Geovanni the guitarist, who also sees the ‘bird guy’ often, thinks he has a whistle in his mouth.

At 2:05 Frankie, the guitar player/singer was done for the day. He was playing at 96th street earlier today, then he played a bit on the ‘1’ train platform at Times Square. Frankie takes a lot of breaks while he performs, so that’s how he lasts many hours. He likes to read the newspaper as a break from playing. He told me he had been playing a song by Pavarotti and people really like that.


The uniformed guard of the Times Square subway station came to greet me by standing in front of me and bowing to me.
The tall cleaning-guy of the station also stopped to say ‘how are you?’

An elderly lady stood by me with a little dog. She said her dog will sing along with my playing, but he didn’t…

At 2:50 my left hand hurt so much that I had to stop playing earlier than I would have liked to. I was tired today to begin with. I only lasted this long because of the energy I received from the passers by. It’s amazing how the audience gives energy to the performer.

me at Times Square
Photo by John Sarsgard

At 3:05 Geovanni finished playing at Grand Central Station because a group of musicians came with a permit. I gave him my spot where he said he will play for another hour until it’s time for him to head over to Brooklyn to teach a guitar lesson.
We talked about the ‘bird guy’ and how there are people we see every day in the subway while we are playing. It’s funny to see the same people at different locations.
For Nicola, the singer, it wasn’t funny – she had a problem lately with a guy at Penn Station who seemed to be stalking her.


On the elevator down to the train platform a guy from Sri Lanka asked me where I was from. He told me he came to New York 9 days ago. He is excited about learning a lot of things in NYC.


2 Responses to The Audience Gives Energy to the Performer

  1. Alexa Weber Morales on October 17, 2007 at 12:00 am

    What a fabulous blog. I am a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area, and gigs are so tight I was thinking about busking (this despite being signed to a record label and having national distribution!). I love your observations of the passers-by. Personally, I love to perform and I don’t get to do it enough, which also drives me to consider where, outside of nightclubs and churches, I could bring music to people. Anyway, thanks so much for your insight, musicality and perseverance. You lead an amazing and unusual life–thanks for sharing it with others.

  2. Saw Lady on October 17, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Alexa,

    I would like to congratulate you on your decision to go busking – I’m sure you won’t regret it. Lots of buskers in NYC are signed with lables and they find busking helps them spread the word about their music. Go for it! and let me know how it went.

    All the best,


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