I walked around scouting and noticed a few fellow buskers in the usual corners and finally settled on a less trafficked corner by the hot dog stand which had a nice bit of shade. I didn't bring a chair with me and since I didn't want to take up picnic table room reserved for hot dog eating patrons, I opted for practicing my upright cello skills and set up next to the street in the shade of a nice tree.
It was one of those days I wasn't sure I wanted to go out busking. Sometimes I get excited about playing cello out on the street. It feels sort of dangerous and 'out there' and I feel passionate about sharing my cello with other people around me. Today I wasn't sure I was up to it. I guess you could say I was a little depressed. I slowly set up and tried to take in the environment. It was close to 80 degrees and the peaches in peck baskets were BIG! Apples $1.50 for a small basket, zucchini $.50, cheese, Amish pies, perennials, cut flowers wilting in the sun. As I was walking over I heard a woman call out to someone ahead of her "Thank you Mama! I love you!" Is it me, or are people at the Rochester Public Market usually in a good mood? As I was setting up a woman came and introduced herself as the busking scheme manager. "If any of the stand owners have a problem with you just move to another place and if anyone is rude tell me and I'll take care of it. I've got your back." Cool to have support from the administration for the market, but also interesting that there are now rules for buskers... 1. You have to sign in 2. you can only play for two hours 3. only three buskers at a time... Supposedly all in the best interest of the busker but also more bureaucratic control of the arts. While I was in London I saw two big burly policemen make a busker move just because he wasn't within the specified footage perimiter someone in an office had pre-ordained. Never mind the beautiful music he was offering, never mind the worn out waitress taking a coffee break with tranquility, never mind the tourists wanting to buy his cds, the quiet calm of the plaza...
Halfway through my first little warm-up improv I had money in my case and someone interrupting to ask for a card. I often meet a lot of interesting people playing on the street. One man came and stood to my left humming along. "You ought to come out and join our Genesee Valley Orchestra" he said. "And I know about auditions" he added referring to the terrible journey for the classical musician bent on a decent paying orchestra job. "Don't worry, you're good, you'll make it." A woman put a bill in my case and looked up, "Good luck honey". One patron suggested a better tempo for the Courante. "I always thought it would sound good slower" he said. A friendly couple chatted to me in between songs and racing through their hot dogs. "Are you a full-time busker?" the man asked. I laughed.
Playing without a chair is a little interesting for a classical cellist; we're used to our sitting comfort. But today I found out that its a lot easier to have a kid try your instrument standing up. "How old are you?"
"That's the perfect age to start playing an instrument!"
As usual the littlest kids were often the most aware and absorbed into the music, craning their necks and staring from their strollers while their parents drag them on to buy peppers and watermelons. Sometimes the parents stop and give their child coins or crumpled dollar bills to throw in my case. I always smile at the kids and ignore the adults putting money into my case. Several times I've had people tell me they weren't really sure what a cello sounded like because they'd never heard it on its own before. Busking is a great way to share a little music education...
After awhile it was getting hot in the sun and before I could think about it the hot dog stand owner had brought me a nice cold bottle of water and put $5 on my stand. 'Wow! These people are so nice!' I thought.
$62 later I was packing up and at the stand for my own hot dog. "NO CHARGE, no charge" the owner told the counter worker. "How's business today?" I asked. I already knew the answer. "Business is good" he said. "Business is good." I nodded knowingly. Whatever they said on the radio this week, business is good and the arts are alive.