top of page



By Carly Menkin

I am in love with this city. The beating of my heart pressed up against the swelling pace of city life gives birth to a rhythm so steady, it’s impossible to stop. The music is everywhere; Pounding the pavement with clicking heels, the rustling of shopping bags brushing against one another while the sirens of ambulances blaze through crowded streets. Descending the stairway into the Union Square subway station seems like a treacherous adventure ripped from the screenplay of the newest terrible Shia Lebouf action flick… And then one hears something magnificent. Over the cacophony of the midday rush is a smooth layer of music that cuts like a knife. A young man with his back against the wall picks his guitar with such ease and strength that he must have years of training. He notices me as I methodically observe him, effortlessly picking up the pace at the end of this classical Spanish piece. The rarity of the uproarious applause he receives startles me as I ask where he studied music. “I am self taught” he replies with a smirk. He slides a business card into my hand- Thalys Peterson, Brazilian musician.

Thalys is one of the hundreds of performers who take to the streets of New York each day looking for support, inspiration and hopefully the sound of applause and opportunity. These performers provide the background music to the city that never sleeps.  They often live in the shadows of the streets of Broadway​, home to some of the most world-renowned artists. They busk along the sidewalks of Greenwich Village music institutions like the Bitter End, where fellow street performers like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell got their start. A few blocks northwest, along Hudson Street, I’ve often found a pair tappers hitting the boards hard outside of Goorin Bros Hat Shop simply to amuse passersby. While most enjoy donations, I have no doubt they all do it for something more simple: The love of music.​

In a city where you can see Grammy award-winning bands like The Roots perform at a bowling alley in Brooklyn or attend a concert of superstar soprano Renee Fleming at Carnegie Hall, ​why not take the time to listen to those who are giving a piece of their souls away for free? Of course I still urge you to visit venues of prestige like Therapy, where one can watch drag queens lip syncing for their lives. But even more so, I implore visitors of our fine city to take a moment when passing an old man on the sax, playing the blues in Central Park. For it’s these musical plebeians 
that turn New York’s bustling noise into a symphony.

Carly Menkin a native of South Africa, now resides in New York where she is pursuing a career in the performing arts.

She has been seen on stage with legends like Stevie Nicks, Chicago & Carol Channing

bottom of page