While any active commuter in the past year will tell you that the buskers have never really stopped performing in subways, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to kick it up a notch by un-pausing their Music Under New York program on June 4.
The string quartet, Diverse Concert Artists, opened the MTA announcement that the program would gradually commence on Thursday in the 72nd Street Q train station, which Sandra Bloodworth, MTA Arts and Design Director, said is another indicator of the transit system’s return to normalcy.
“The return of Music Under New York will be gradual at first, and then we’ll look forward to the, to welcoming these most talented and gifted performers who make our journey better. Many of them will begin to appear throughout the system. And over time we expect that those numbers will rise,” Bloodworth said. “Music Under New York has been a cultural fixture for 35 years, and I’m confident it will remain a staple of the city’s cultural and transit scenes for many more years to come.”
Bloodworth believes they will need to make adjustments as they go, but they hope to have 200 active acts at any given time, with a goal of reaching their pre-pandemic peak of 1,000 performances per month. Insisting that the system is safe, despite dozens of assaults against transit workers in recent weeks, Bloodworth said musicians have not been deterred in seeking the outlet.
Over the past 14 months, Bloodworth claims her phone has been ringing off the hook with performers who want back into the program.
Rachel Hippert, the co-founder of the Opera Collective, for example, described the hiatus of the pandemic as one of the most difficult periods in her life, even if it is only a slice of the hardship felt across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Of all the preeminent stages in this incredible city, we view MTA music as one of the most important because our audience is not exclusively the elite. Our audience is every single New Yorker and visitor. We have the unique potential and ability to make music for everyone, not just those who can afford a seat in a theater,” Hippert said. “To be unable to sing and perform for so long felt a bit like living a half life, like an essential part of us was silenced. It has been the most difficult part of my life personally for many reasons and I know my musician colleagues can certainly relate to the profound sense of loss.”
Hippert feels this is her moment, and those of other artists, to help the world heal.
The MTA offers a pre-pandemic of locations where New Yorkers can take in the sights and sounds of performers on their website, but this could be subject to change with the restart of the program due to construction at some sites as well as other factors.