To play the New York subway, you have to pass an audition

To play the New York subway, you have to pass an audition


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2018

Would you believe it?

On Monday, in the culmination of a four-month long process, MTA MUSIC announced the newest members of the MTA Music Under New York program that gives official sanction to New York City subway musicians.

It may come as a surprise that some, but not all subway performers in NYC subway stations, have passed a rigorous audition process.

Read on here.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Buskers on the London tube have to audition too.

  • CYM says:

    Jazz musicians must audition on « Take The A-440 Train » platform…

  • Sharon says:

    At one point some of the musicians from the MTA underground program also became part of the Lincoln Center”s podium’s summer outdoor program. They were scheduled to play and give programs on the podium.

    Some of the performers are quite talented. I especially like the South American (generally from Guatemala) fusion players with the wooden flutes and pan pipes

  • Eric says:

    This isn’t news, in that it isn’t new. It’s an annual program that been going on for years. the MTA’s Arts in Transit arm has a program called “Music Underground” and they essentially verify and license these musicians to perform in their spaces. And they are all quite talented!

  • Dan P. says:

    My favorite of the official performaers is the lady who plays Schubert’s Ave Maria on the musical saw at the Times Square subway stop near the record shop and between the shuttle platform and the stairs to the 1,2,3, platforms.

    I don’t think you need to audition, though, if you do your performance in the train itself. That’s where you used to get the blind Hungarian accordionist whose only number was the theme from The Godfather, various mariachi trios, teenaged dancers, and, my all time favorite, who I only saw once on the way home, a magician who pulled rabbits out of hats and unending scarves from his sleeve and transformed a train filled with grumpy, soggy (it had been drizzling for days), and tired New Yorkers into smiling young kids again. When he passed the hat, EVERYONE was taking out their wallets to hand him dollar bills. It was just kid’s party stuff, but you could just feel the mood lift for the rest of the ride home.

    • Robert Holmén says:

      Performing on a train for money is banned as is any other panhandling there.

      Here is a guide to where you do and don’t need a permit in NYC…

      • Dan P. says:

        Performing and panhandling would be banned if anyone actually paid attention to such a ban and if the MTA had ever enforced it. The fact is, it happens regularly. I ride the subway every day, and I see performers in the train at least once a week – and that’s just on my little jaunt. And I’ve seen a couple of the panhandlers (Lloyd, for example) on my line for years. Nice guy. He always ends his spiel with, “if you don’t have any money, then have a smile.” Then, of course, there are the kids selling candy for fundraising of some sort. So, so much for a ban. I don’t eat It, but I usually buy something. And Lloyd always gets my spare change or a dollar or two.

    • Saw Lady says:

      Dan P. – thank you so much for your kind words! You totally made my day!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Mr. Bortslap, care to comment?