Paganini XXI Century: Music Under New York  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

On a cold day back in January, my friends and I were returning from a fun shopping trip in Manhattan and finding our path through the subway to our train line when we heard music nearby and saw a crowd of people standing, observing something. We came closer and saw a man performing, which is a pretty regular sight for people who are used to the NYC train stations. If you take the train regularly here, you will see a wide variety of performers of all ages, races, and nationalities, playing different genres of music. I usually only stop for a minute or two before going to catch my train, but since we were not yet ready to leave the city and go back to our regular lives, we stayed for a few minutes and watched, all agreeing that he was a great performer. He was dancing and playing on an electric violin, the sound vibrating all throughout the station, and a lot of people stopped to watch. We eventually left and took our train back to Brooklyn, and that was that. More than half a year passed, and I had pretty much forgotten all about it.

Last week, as I was swiping my MetroCard at the 34th Street Herald Square station on my way home after college, I heard the sounds of loud electric music right next to the turnstiles. I looked over and realized that it was the same performer that we had seen in January, so I stopped to watch and to listen. He had a sign with his name and website as well as a poster behind him with the name of his project, and when I came home I decided to take a look at his website.

His name is Michael Shulman, and he is originally from Russia but came to New York to pursue his musical dreams. What's interesting (and he mentions it in the biography on his website) is that the Soviet Union banned rock and metal during the Communist era, and that is precisely the type of music Michael Shulman was inspired by. His project is called Paganini XXI Century, symbolizing the combination of classical elements and modern influences. Check out his biography and music on his website. If you want to see him play, he has a schedule on his website of when he is in different subway stations in NY. It seems he mostly plays at Union Square and Herald Square though.

I realized yesterday that he was playing at 34th yet again (near Stern College), so I stopped by the train station just in time to hear him play the last three songs of the day. I was especially delighted to hear him playing Michael Jackson's songs, including Smooth Criminal, which he did an awesome job on. Here's a video I found on YouTube of him playing Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'.

Apparently, musicians who want to play in a subway system have to go through an audition process with MUNY -- Music Under New York, an MTA program. I learn something new every day...

In other interesting NYC subway news, I have a story for you. I was heading back home from college quite late yesterday (after 9 PM), and there was the usual search for an empty seat. As I was hurrying to a vacant spot, I saw another woman aiming for the same seat, so I stopped and backed away. She had done the same thing, and the two of us stood there asking each other to please sit (no, no, it's ok; no, go ahead; no, it's fine; are you sure?) until she finally sat down. She noticed that I was holding a French language book from college, and she remarked on it, asking me how much I know already. We somehow ended up talking for most of the ride, until she got off at her stop. In those 25 minutes, she told me part of her life's story -- places she's traveled, what she is doing here in New York now, her personal life and her struggles. She also pulled an envelope of photos from her bag and showed them to me proudly; they were of her time in England, her trip to Washington, etc. She is originally from Morocco and is now learning English, so I suppose she took this as an opportunity to practice the language. Either way, it was such an unexpected thing to experience in New York, where you pass by hundreds of people everyday without caring who they are or what they are doing. We wished each other good luck and all the best as she was getting off the train, and that was that. Just another moment in the life of a New Yorker.

Have I ever mentioned that I love New York?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at Wednesday, October 13, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



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October 13, 2010 at 10:04 PM

Hey, it's Annie ! Glad to see you having fun and meeting cool random strangers! I was thinking, if he has a performance on a bloppy&stern break, maybe we can make a 6pack out of it?

October 13, 2010 at 11:03 PM

I've seen this violinist play at 14th street. That's another Music Under New York location with many great performances. My favorite is the 'Saw Lady' - have you ever run into her in the subway? She hands out cards with her blog on them ( - she tells what happens when she plays in the subway). NYC is definitely amazing!

October 14, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Annie -- Fun idea, but what are the chances of my break and your break and his performances coinciding?

Michelle -- No, I've never seen the Saw Lady, but I did stumble across her blog once! I do hope to see her one day. I saw Michael Shulman again today though at 34th.

October 20, 2010 at 1:07 AM

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