I think street performers reveal a lot about the personality of a city. Their performances appear spontaneous (even if they are somewhat legislated.) and most often they provide just enough exposure to arts and culture to put a little zip into your day. You don't have get dressed up or even buy a ticket. A donation is appreciated, but not required. And you never know who this person may end up being...the next Lady Gaga or Wynton Marsalis?
Not every performing artist will make it to Bass Hall or even Billy Bob's. They may not want to. What they want to do is play their instrument, juggle a few balls, or amaze us as they pose tirelessly as a living statue.
I have seen them, and quite enjoyed them...Boston, Baltimore, NYC, New Orleans. It's part of the fabric of many cities. I remember a Julliard trained violinist who regularly dazzled people as they walked on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I frequently travelled into the city from my college dorm on Long Island. The violinist played on the sidewalk near one of my favorite stores, violin case open for contributions. He was quite accomplished. I recall reading stories about him in magazines and newspapers (no internet then...a time long ago!) that focused more on his financial gain than his musical talents. He was raking it in! Perhaps he did make it to Carnegie Hall!
Not all street performers have been trained at Julliard. And, as the article from The Atlantic Cities reveals, sometimes it shows!
SAXOPHONES, IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS
Ears ringing from a truly awful jazz concert, officials in this Boston satellite city came this close to passing a ban on saxophones. The saga of how a single, tone-deaf street performer almost sparked an iron-fisted crackdown on the world's second-most-ridiculous wind instrument (seriously, there's one called a "Goofus"?) is entertainingly detailed in the Salem News, which quotes the city solicitor as saying, "I never realized how loud a saxophone could actually go." The offending musician had staked out a pedestrian mall and was playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over and over again, leading citizens to bombard city hall with furious phone calls. However, the Salem Licensing Board opted not to add "no saxophones" to its new set of street-performer regulations after councilman Bob McCarthy pointed out that not all practitioners of the instrument are terrible. (McCarthy's kid plays the saxophone in the school band.)