Some of the best performances in the city do not always happen in conventional places such as concert venues, theater halls or even indoors. Busking is the culture of street performers and is very popular in D.C. and other major cities around the U.S. While traveling in D.C. on the metro or even by foot, you are bound to run into an unexpected performance of sorts.
Explore some of these hangouts for impromptu performances during your next sojourn through the city. Not too long ago, the famous concert violinist Joshua Bell participated in an experiment in which he performed outside a random D.C. metro. He had already played before a packed house in the city, yet only one person recognized the famous classical musician, who was dismissed like many of the great street artists are in the city. Don’t miss an opportunity to be enriched and inspired for free.
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Malcolm X Drummers
Malcolm X Park
Between Florida Avenue and Euclid St., N.W.
The Malcolm X Drummers can been seen performing at a variety of events in the city, but most have come to appreciate their presence in Malcolm X Park. Founded by Doc Powell, the ensemble of drummers ranging in age can often be found on Sundays in Malcolm X Park. In addition to outside performances, they also can be engaged for various events. For more information, contact Powell at (202) 459-8157.
Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro
630 H. Street N.W.
The Gallery Place Chinatown Metro is a popular place to encounter street musicians of all sorts on any given day. Located in the hustle and bustle of stores, restaurants and the Verizon Center, this metro is the prime audience for street musicians. A popular saxophonist and a drummer that uses old buckets as instruments can be found here often. You’ll also find Brass Connection perform here.
Violinist Raycurt Johnson-Union Station Metro
Union Station Station Metro
701 First St. NE
Violinist Raycurt Johnson can be found at any given Metro. A classically gifted and trained musician, Johnson studied chamber music at the Eastman School of Music. He has performed all over Europe and is a frequent performer in the Washington, D.C. area. It is amazing to randomly be hurrying through the Metro station and run into Raycurt playing a work by one of the classical masters. His performances rival any of those heard at The Kennedy Center. When you hear the exquisite violin playing in a D.C. Metro, don’t turn a blind eye; stop and listen.
L’Enfant Plaza Metro
600 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024
If you pass through L’Enfant Plaza, you will certainly run into an ensemble of African American men singing in five point hospital. Handclapping, foot stomping and inspired listeners waiting for the metro always surround this experience. The singing is always uplifting and it is apparent that these men sing out of joy and not monetary compensation.
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Patrick D. McCoy is a freelance writer in Washington, D. C. where he is active as a performing arts journalist, educator, church music director and radio show host. His work can be found here.