The Why : Silhouette of a Violinist

It’s been a stressful week whilst Nick has been away. I have been attending meeting that I come out of with more questions then answers. I was searching through some old files on the computer and came across this blog that Nick wrote about 4 years ago. It was a timely reminder of why I feel in love with this project. We want to change the lives of amazing performers across the world with your support. Thank you for sticking by us. Stefan Mullard: Community Manager 

Chen Cong, My Hero: Nick Broad

As I’m not a busker myself, and have no intention of becoming one, people often ask me whyI’ve spent years workingwith them. It’s a simple answer.

When I moved to New York I lived with Chen Cong, a subway violinist. He had learnt the instrument in China as a child, endured destitution under Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution, escaped to New York, got a masters in performance at the prestigious Mannes College of Music, and looked destined to get an orchestra job.

He decided, though, that if he wanted someone to tell him what to play and how to play it he could go back to China for that. Instead he chose to busk, and spent the next 24 years entertaining spontaneous audiences on the 57th Street F Stop platform.

Both times I watched him I saw someone in the audience wipe a tear from their eyes. People clapped, danced, smiled, made eye contact with strangers (on the subway!) — everyone knew they were sharing something special.

And yet he was also spat on, kicked, moved along, told to get a real job, thought of as lazy, stupid, probably an illegal immigrant or a beggar of some kind, and rarely seen as a highly skilled, generous musician who’d chosen one of the most honest ways to make a living that you can as an artist: no fees, no marketing, no pomp, just the music.

Thanks to increased police harassment, Chen has left New York.

The transformative power of his playing was what piqued my interest. The way he was treated is what made me want to invest years of my life on the subject. I saw him as a hero, and society didn’t. That is what I’d like to change.