The Subway Suites: NY Cellist Plays Bach For Subway Commuters

Cellist Dale Henderson performs Bach in the NY Subways to expose more people to classical music.(Photo: Daniela Sessa)
Cellist Dale Henderson performs Bach in the NY Subways to expose more people to classical music.(Photo: Daniela Sessa)

Unlike violinist Joshua Bell (who famously performed a special one-time engagement in a Washington, D.C. subway as a stunt for a 2007 Washington Post article), for cellist Dale Henderson performing in the New York City subway has become a more regular gig.

He’s been performing in the subway for two years. Not technically busking (Henderson does not accept tips — anymore), this is performance art designed to take classical music to the public, specifically those who frequent New York’s vast subway system.

“I think the most obvious answer to the question why am I doing this without collecting money on my own time is that I love it,” he said. “The interest is growing, so I think it’s working,” Henderson told CNN.

Henderson lives in the Bronx and makes his living teaching music and giving performances outside of the subway. A classically trained musician, Henderson has been playing cello since the age of 5, made his professional debut at age 13 with the Buffalo Philharmonic and has a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

In the subway, he plays nothing but the six Cello Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach. His project, “Bach in the Subways,” is an inspired response to what Henderson describes as a general concern among classical musicians that the genre is dying.

He’s optimistic that exposing the public to Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major on their daily commute is making a difference.

“From the first time I ever started Bach in the Subways, I had a sense of conviction of the value of what I’m doing [...] I think that Bach in the Subways is providing something meaningful to the people who hear it,” Henderson says.

If you’re ever in New York, Henderson posts his whereabouts on Facebook and on Twitter.

Watch: cellist Dale Henderson performs in a NY Subway station.

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Nora McDonald contributed to this article.

Comments
  • Michael

    Joshua Bell did not play in the NYC subway – it was the DC subway…
    If you check out the Wikipedia page of ‘Music Under New York’ you will find that:
    “Many of the musicians who play in the subway under MUNY have illustrious careers above ground. The following MUNY musicians have performed at Carnegie Hall: Natalia Paruz – also known as the ‘Saw Lady’ (musical saw), James Graseck (violin), Ebony Hillbillies.”
    I haven’t had the pleasure of running into Dale Henderson yet, but I did hear a Chinese cellist play Saint Saens in the subway, the above mentioned ‘Saw Lady’ play Bach & Mozart and James Graseck play Bach & Vivaldi. Always a pleasure hearing live classical music in the subway. And I don’t have a problem with a tip jar… I am happy to support such endeavors.