New York's Underground Music Inspires

Millions of people travel through New York City's public transportation systems every day. Amidst the sounds of screeching trains and conductor announcements many of these people hear the sounds of New York's underground music.  Paige Kollock reports.

They pay, they push, they run.

But sometimes, they stop and listen.

These musicians belong to a group called "Music Under New York," but they come from countries as far away as China and Chile.  

Valerie Zhmud is originally from Ukraine, where he was trained in violin. Three days a week, he plays professionally at a restaurant, but sometimes, he plays in Grand Central Station. He says he enjoys the crowds. "I love playing for people and make good feeling for them, and the whole time they say, 'thank you, thank you', so it's really nice," he adds.

The program started in 1985 as part of a wider initiative called "Arts for Transit." Every year, a panel of judges selects musicians from hundreds of applicants who come to audition.  Last year, the judges chose 26 new acts out of 200 applicants.   Lydia Bradshaw works for the New York City Metropolitan Transit System says that the music enhances the atmosphere.  "It's to encourage the use of mass transit and enhance the environment for commuters," says Bradshaw.

Music Under New York also acts as a point of contact for the musicians, allowing interested parties to get in touch with the musicians and maybe even book them for a show.

Jeremiah Lockwood started playing blues in the subway at a young age. Now he has a record deal. "It gives you a platform to say anything you want to say. Also, you have this kind of immediate connection with people. You don't have a captive audience, you have to capture them yourself," he said.

Capturing their dollars may be harder, as busy New Yorkers often rush by. But for those who stop and listen, a great musical experience awaits them.

One commuter said, "I think it's really cool because it makes me more energized, and it's free by the way.  They're giving so many great [songs] that I've never heard before." It also allows performers to reach an audience who may not come to see them otherwise.

More than 100 musicians are currently participating in the program.  They schedule themselves on a weekly basis at one of 25 designated locations throughout New York City's transit systems.


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