Street Performing as Public Service


Street Performing as Public Service
by Susan Basko

Street performance, also known as busking, is a form of public service.  Street performers make music, juggle, create art.  Their audience is whoever happens to be there.   I encourage street performers to think of their performance as sacred service, creating moments of happiness for those who may most need it.
I recently got this email:

Hi, Sue

We exchanged emails a while ago concerning my busking on Venice Beach and the police response to me regarding noise. I believe in your last email to me you told me to keep on playing, that I was doing a service for the people on the beach. I really didn't understand that.

Well, I've continued playing on a once-a-week basis with no more problems (just south of Rose St.). Yesterday, a homeless man who was "camping" out on the grass near me, approached me as I was setting up. He was like many of the homeless, suffering from obvious psychological problems, but he wanted to give me two ceramic balls (about six inches in diameter). I offered to pay him, but he refused, saying they were a gift. He then handed me a dollar bill, and said, "I've heard you play before. This is for the two hours of entertainment you're going to give me. God bless you."

So now I get what you meant. 

And although it never has bothered me when "down and outers" smile at me, give me thumbs-up, stop and tell me that they're enjoying my blues, but of course don't tip (which I really don't need anyway), suddenly their positive responses mean so much more than the tourists who throw the money in. 

Willie the Bird sat down next to me while I played yesterday, lit up his pipe, and when I finished my song thanked me. Then he fished through his Rastafarian bag, and placed a tip in my container - a three quarter used lighter. We shook hands, and he "God blessed me."

It doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks for your encouragement, Sue.

Bill