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Atilla the Gate Agent book

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Here's a fascinating exercise: take an internationally renowned, former child prodigy, grammy-award-winning concert violinist, have him play anonymously for an hour on the street outside a Washington subway stop, and see what happens.

This is what classical icon Joshua Bell did in an experiment on perception and public taste conducted by The Washington Post. He wore jeans, a t-shirt,and a baseball cap. He played six classical pieces on a three hundred year old Stradivarius worth $3.5 million, hoping to get the attention of passersby.

Joshua Bell normally plays 120 shows per year in packed concert halls full of people who have paid $100 per ticket to be spellbound by his virtuosity. How much did he collect in that hour on the street?


Out of 1,097 people who passed by, how many people recognized him?


He said it felt strange being ignored, and he was nervous. He developed a new respect for street musicians, and says he'll pay more attention to them in the future. (He doesn't, however, want to repeat the experience.)

This reminds me of watching Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Buffalo Springfield; and a major solo artist in his own right) perform in a local drinking establishment, also known as a "bar." It was a political get-out-the-vote event a few years ago, put together by local and state candidates in Kansas City. Delighted that I could hear this mega-star for free in a relatively intimate setting, I went early and claimed a stool at a tall table about 15 feet from the stage.

After the candidates came out and gave their rah-rahs, Stills emerged and did six or seven of his hits, just he and a guitar, mixing in a few political comments. As he played for 40 minutes or so, I looked around in astonishment to see about two thirds of the people chatting, drinking,and basically ignoring this huge rock star.

Right then I really got it: you put people in a bar, they behave like they're in a bar! Similarly, you put a virtuoso musician on the street, and he'll be perceived by most people as not worth stopping to listen to. Environment and context are everything. Or as Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey) puts it so paradoxically in the movie Beyond The Sea, "People hear what they see."

Analogous to this is that if you saw my new book at the front table in Borders, you might be more impressed and likely to buy it than if you heard about it from me in this email. But it's the same book. Here's what Larry Dossey said about it:

"In Atilla The Gate Agent, Greg Tamblyn strips away the seriousness of life and exposes the humorous side we often miss. Tamblyn is a contemporary Mark Twain, who once remarked, 'I have known a great many troubles in my life, most of which never happened.' Buy ten copies of Atilla The Gate Agent - one for you and nine for your friends. You'll make the world a better place."
         ~ Larry Dossey, MD, author: The Extraordinary Healing Power Of Ordinary Things

Friends, I know what you're thinking: "Greg, this is a sneaky way to let us know your new book is in now in print!" Maybe so, but I wanted to give you a little something extra to think about, rather than hit you over the head with the usual shameless self promotion. Most of the time in life it's illuminating -- and worth the effort -- to see through the context and the setting (in some cases, the hype) and grok what's really there. I hope you're moved to think about it next time you see an artist in a humble setting.

If you've made it this far in the article, there's a good chance you'll enjoy my book. It's a collection of funnybone-tweaking, mind-opening, heart-expanding stories about stimulating people and experiences, mostly from the road.

And if you order it from my website, you receive two free song downloads. Here's the link to check it out:

Thanks for your continued listening and reading. It keeps me off the street!

© 2007 Greg Tamblyn

Tamblynís music can be heard, and ordered, online at

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