You see them on street corners and in T stations, playing for the people passing by. In part four of this series on The Boston Music Scene, WBZ’s Bradley Jay talks to area street musicians.
BOSTON (CBS) – Boston buskers, or street musicians, can turn an afternoon stroll into a cultural experience. Busking is also a tool for the musicians, as it provides an unforgiving proving ground. It teaches lessons in how to deal with performance challenges.
For example, Harvard Square busking regular Roger Nickleson has become skilled at dealing with hecklers.
“Make sure that they never get the last word,” says Nickleson. “Try to be funny when you can be, and if not, it’s okay to just shred them verbally.”
Nickleson recalls one time when a belligerent group of Red Sox fans on their way home from a game started booing him.
“My line was, ‘You’re acting like a couple of Yankees fans!,’ he recalls. “And everyone started laughing at them and it shut them up.”
The hassles of busking are offset by potential rewards, however.
“When I was really on fire, if I played at night, I’d make at least $150 to $250, some nights even more,” confides Nickleson.
But for the street musicians, it’s not just about money. Boston singer/songwriter Mary Lou Lord uses the streets to practice her craft.
“One of my favorite things about busking is that you can play the same song all night long if you want because you’ve got ten or twenty trains, and that’s like twenty little audiences,” she says.
Berklee College of Music’s Roger Brown finds real value for the students in busking.
“When you’re busking, you have a small audience. They don’t have to be there, and there are plenty of distractions,” Brown says. “It helps you perfect your performance skills so that you know what people respond to, and you know what they don’t respond to.”
Perhaps the best thing about busking is the human interaction. One busker who wishes to remain anonymous puts it this way: “I like this better than the stage because it’s more of a one-on-one contact with people. It’s more of a spiritual thing.”
Thanks to all the great buskers including The Scottish Fish, Conundrum 9, Mary Lou Lord, and Joe’s Truckstop.
Next, in part five of the series The Boston Music Scene, Bradley Jay finds out what it takes to “make it” as a musician in Boston.
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