I’ve been playing in my hometown of Tilburg for several years now. It started in the summer of 2017 when I befriended a Spanish violinist who was studying at the same conservatory. Since we both didn’t have a job, we quickly figured we could perform violin duets on the streets to make some money while doing what we love. We studied Bach, Leclaire, Pleyel and other music together and took to the streets afterwards. We would play on a weekly basis, usually on Saturday and would pick the best spots in town. It worked really well financially and spectators gave us solid donations! People would usually stop to listen to us, especially at movements that are faster or technically more difficult. In one day, playing for roughly one to two hours, we would receive enough tips to buy basic necessities like food for four or five days while the general response was a very good one. We would often be thanked for performing on the streets and “bringing life to Tilburg”.
After the summer of 2017 I decided to see whether it was also possible to play alone and get the same amount of donations and responses. Surprisingly enough it did, even though the repertoire for solo violin is not necessarily harder to come by, it is more difficult to be entertaining when it’s just you and one violin. Nevertheless, it worked equally well in terms of tips and public response.
I have definitely learned a lot over the course of structurally playing on the streets for two years here. One remarkable truth is that children roughly below the age of twelve will always watch you play and usually stare at you. The younger the children are, the longer they stare at you, sometimes even losing sight of what’s right in front of them – which will cause their parents to wonder what they are so fascinated about. I have asked myself many times over why it is that children never fail to simply pass by without throwing a glance. Perhaps it’s the age that makes them more open to new experiences and wonder.
By the same token, parents with pre-teen children will often make turn my violin playing into a lesson for their children. Usually – and I’ve learned to spot this procedure from a mile away – they will first look at me, then look at their child, subsequently initiate conversation and point at me. Then they will take out their purse, give their child a coin and let them drop it into my suitcase. It’s quite adorable, really! Sometimes I will be able to overhear the conversation they will have with their kid before or after the donation and it usually comes down to a lesson about appreciating beauty wherever and whenever it can be found. Of course the same message but spoken in such a way that a child can easily understand! Those parents usually give me the friendliest smiles and I always thank them in return by nodding towards them while smiling and thanking their kid for their donation, after which the now very shy child will usually run back to their mother.
Apart from children and their parents, most donations I have received from somewhat older residents. Usually it’s a nice lady that will come up to me to have a chat afterwards, but that would only be a slight majority. People of all color, age, background and gender have given generous tips so it’s hard to say which social group exactly is dominant in either giving the largest donation or coming up to me for a chat. I find that to be an amazing thing. I would be worried if it would only be old people or people in the upper class of society, yet luckily that’s not the case at all.
I love playing in my hometown and in the mean time I can cover some of the costs of living, so I had decided to make it my summer job. In the summer of 2018 I worked three out of seven days (Friday – Sunday) which would usually amount to earning 100€. However, what is equally important to me is feeling appreciated. Feeling as if I contribute something to society and to bring art to the streets and not keep it within the confines of a concert hall.