Home > Entertainment, Lifestyle > Street: The Secret Lives of Street Performers

Street: The Secret Lives of Street Performers

Malaya V. Saldaña

Photo by Malaya V. Saldaña

We all know them: the musical, the bohemian, the strange, the annoying, the inspiring, the unorthodox, the talented, the gimmicky: the street performer. From the sighing of a jazz clarinet to the cough of a spray-paint can, these people push and pull music and art into city streets and subway cars.

The only thing more intriguing then the music, the colors and the cardboard signs are the people behind them.

“What’s my opinion on street musicians? Well, I used to be one,” said Faith Brancale, FCLC ’14 and a visual arts major. Raising money to travel to Australia, Faith shared her talent as a violinist and her creative entrepreneurial spirit with NYC from the stage of a subway platform station. The most memorable of her many audience members “was a dude who listened for a while, dropped $20 in my box and said ‘I’m from Australia. Good luck on your trip.’”

I spoke to several street performers about what they wanted to share with others, and one, an elderly Spanish guitarist, recounted these cold glazed expressions. “You know what I hate, when they look like zombies. I also do not like how I must apologize before playing my music. I love my music.”

The question then becomes, why then do these people street perform? Is it for money, for their art and self expression or both? My mom was a street musician, and I used to wonder why she did it: she had a daytime job as a secretary downtown and singing gigs at night. She told me it was “because it is the realest, most unpretentious way of playing music for the people.” Another jazz musician and a single father told me, “Listen miss, if there is one thing you need to publish tell them this. I love to share my music. My art, this is me. If I made money in any other way, well than I would be a liar.”

Perhaps next time you’re sitting on the 1-train downtown reading the course reader for this afternoon’s Philosophy class, acknowledge the person behind the performer. They may remember your kindness and generosity forever.

  1. Michelle
    November 25, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    First – I take my hat off for your Mom. Sounds like she is a lady who knows how to live. Second – you are so right with your closing sentence – street musicians do remember kindness for ever. I know this because I follow the ‘Saw Lady’s blog – http://www.subwaymusicblog.com – she tells what happens when she plays in the NYC subway. I think street musicians are amazing people.

  2. Malaya
    November 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks Michelle, I love the feedback. I have to agree there are some great street musician’s out there.

  3. Jessica V.
    November 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    intriguing and lovely piece of writing.
    I love street musicians and i love how you brought out their spirit and their fight to express themselves! Viva la musica!!!

  4. Erin
    December 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

    That’s pretty cool 🙂 It takes a lot of guts to be a street performer. I’ll keep that in mind!

  5. Denise
    December 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Love this. Love the photo as well. I think I should be a street performer from now on.

  6. Edan pinto
    December 2, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Look at homeboy in the picture… Holding his cigg. while some kid is literally hanging from his neck…. I want to be that dude. Ha!

  7. G
    December 20, 2010 at 3:24 am

    atta girl

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