Musicians returning to subway stations is another big step on the road to recovery
New York City — One sleeping evening I waited for the 1 train, which always seems to be "delayed" when I'm exhausted. Surprisingly, though, I was about to find some inspiration. Seated about, say, 10-20 feet away from me on the subway platform, I spotted a fresh-faced lady. She sat calmly with a well-worn acoustic guitar on her lap.
Just as my eyelids drooped, I overheard her angelic voice belt out the tune:
In New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do . . .
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York . . .
Ah, she had me at hello!
The more the stranger sang, the more my inspiration grew. After all, I'd moved to the City of Dreams — as have so many others — in pursuit of literary dreams. The lady's gift of music reminded me of this. In short, when I dropped a few dollars in her bucket, I was merely repaying the lady for having paid me with beautiful music.
NYC's subway musicians and performers serve us, New Yorkers, burdened by that unrelenting pressure to keep pace with the New York Minute. Oh, the pressure!
So far as life is all about perspective — anything that serves us a slice of perspective qualifies as a gift.
After being shut down for over a year, what the NY Times calls "a terrible silence," authorized performers finally returned to subway platforms. The MTA music program, which has grown in popularity, resumed Friday.
Natalia Paruz has been performing in the Herald and Union Square subway stations for over two decades. When the pandemic shut down the program, she says it devastated her.
I am foremost a subway musician. When it was taken away from me because of the pandemic, it’s not like my job was taken away from me. It was like my identity was taken away from me.
Just as Paruz links her identity to music and performing, the same can be said for the City of Dreams. Perhaps no greater case embodies the magic of subway performance than Charlotte Awbery's stumbling "into fame," as the NY Post called it.
When web personality Kevin Freshwater randomly challenged subway commuters to “Finish the Lyrics” to Lady Gaga's song from the movie “A Star Is Born,” Awbery gladly accepted. And as they say — the rest is history!
Perhaps there's a touch of poetic justice at play here. After all, before the world knew her as "Lady Gaga" and subway musicians made a living humming her tunes, Stefani Germanotta knew all about dream-chasing in the City of Dreams.
Germanotta, before fans went "Gaga" over her, routinely did open mics around the city, sang in subways and performed wherever she sniffed the chance to be heard. And it's this — the subway musician's longing to be heard along with making their return — which sounds like music to New Yorkers' ears.