2014 MUNY Auditions

Yesterday, Music Under New York held its 27th annual auditions in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. About 20 acts out of the 60 contestants will be chosen by a panel of 35 judges to be added to the MUNY roster. The auditions lasted five minutes each over the course of about six hours, and winners will be announced within the next few weeks.

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We asked MUNY manager Lydia Bradshaw to make sure the legality of freelance busking was mentioned during this year’s auditions. Kalan and I attended the first few hours of the auditions to find out if our requests had been honored as well as to see some of the performances, and MUNY turned out to be quite supportive of our cause. We were unexpectedly invited into the press area where we found that MUNY had included a highlighted copy of MTA rule 1050.6 in the press packets for the event.

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Every reporter covering the auditions has one of these.

We stuck around to see the first 20 performers, and I managed to get close enough to get clear shots of most of them:


Based on some of the articles we’ve seen so far, not every member of the press has actually read everything in the packet, since some still conflate MUNY membership with a general busking license. BuskNY has been largely successful, however, when asking the authors of such articles to make corrections. If only informing the NYPD and general public that busking is legal were that easy!

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Megan Gillis rolling her xylophone out after a really excellent performance.

But back to the auditions themselves: we’ll be looking forward to finding out who wins, and hope to run into all sixty of the contestants performing in the subway soon.

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Heidi Kole on subway crackdown

Update: Commissioner Bratton has responded to the public debate, suggesting that performers ‘find another spot.’ No word on whether Bratton is aware of on-going arrests of law-abiding performers on platforms and mezzanines. 

In a new post at the Subway Diaries, Heidi Kole comments on the results of the crackdown:

” The performers have been moved on, arrested, ticketed & charged with the crime of self expression. It’s a very sad, bleak & lonely place underground since the new police chief, Bratton’s entrance. Every day now when I go under I get either questioned or ticketed or worse. […]

Thee is no music, no dance, no laughter, no art. There is only the loud rumble of metal on metal of screeching brakes interspersed with NYPD announcements over the loud speaker of what to be ‘afraid’ of.

Meanwhile, Bill de Blasio insists that there is no subway crackdown. According to the Observer, he claims that the spike in arrests is “the result of case-by-case decisions by local police commanders, not a larger shift in policy.” Never mind that those police commanders have no training on the MTA performance rules, and never mind their well-documented/counterfactual belief that performance is a crime. Particularly, says de Blasio, never mind that since January, far more untrained police have been in the MTA than ever before. Nope — there’s no crackdown to see here.

So. Whose account do you believe?

Subway Heidi

Photo credit: Heidi Kole