Subway Jams: The Music Can Transport You

| By Editorial Staff

Innovation doesn’t just stem from a group of talented executives in a conference room shouting out ideas. It may come from streaming past subway platform buskers, hearing the noise of the so-called “musicians” that fill the echoing halls. But is it just us “hearing noise”, or is it the sound of innovation through the use of instruments and the voice?

What exactly is it that we know?

  • We know that old assumptions need to be tossed in favor of savoring new opportunities to be exposed to creative musical breakthroughs.
  • We know that musicians performing subway jams may be the Satie of their (our) day: supremely creative and gifted, ahead of the curve, and daring to evolve and display their distinct artistry.
  • We know, too, that these musicians may be talented but not yet discovered (NYD), and perhaps looking for unsolicited feedback from those of us less gifted types who commute to an office—and who might one day buy their music.

Who is Howard Fishman?

Howard Fishman is a middle-aged singer-songwriter and guitarist whose New York subway gigs jump-started his career.

And what a career it is. Nancy Burns-Fusaro, writing in The Westerly Sun, sums it up this way: “Critics around the world have applauded Fishman’s music, which combines jazz, soul, country and folk to create an entirely unique sound, as exciting and unconventional.”

Unconventional is innovation in itself. Doing things in ways that haven’t been done is unconventional.

What’s Fishman’s story?

The multi-talented Fishman graduated from Vassar with an eye towards theater directing when he decided to do side gigs in subway stations while NYD. Once discovered, he spent time in New Orleans which deepened his artistry—and his chutzpah: “If you’re playing with real New Orleans musicians in a real setting, the music has to be authentic, and it’s gotta be genuinely felt, and there has to be a certain amount of respect that goes into it, but also a certain amount of irreverence,” according to Fishman himself.

It appears that not only were Fishman’s subway performances the key to his getting discovered, they likely also were responsible for the wild showmanship on display during his live concerts these days. After all, he had to learn to be heard and noticed above the echoing roar of the trains, the PA announcements, and the general commuter background commotion.

Where the unexpected may lead

Fishman’s life took a decidedly unexpected but serendipitous turn the day he descended the stairs to reach the subway platform, took out his guitar, and began to experiment with musical influences that led to an innovative, “unconventional” sound unique to him.

Reinvention is for everyone. Fishman made a choice to encounter the unknown when he started his busking career, willing to—or daring to—invent new, creative, career opportunities. You might say that he dared to explore and dared to thrive.


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