MTA Holds Auditions For Newest Subway Performers

May 21, 2019 - 6:03 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The final auditions for the MTA’s Music Under New York program got underway Tuesday as the agency searches for musicians to perform in the subway.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reports, it’s not easy to get the privilege to play the city’s subway network.

Over 300 musical acts are whittled down to just 20 in the MTA Arts & Design’s 32nd annual auditions in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

“If they like it, we get that immediate feedback,” said George Crotty of the band Two Birds. “People stop, kids dance, whatever ends up in the hat, as well, is always appreciated.”

Likewise, Jake Kulak, the frontman of Jake Kulak and The Lowdown, from Hartford, says the possibility to play in the subways is exciting.

“We've actually had some friends who have done this before and they say it's a great way to get people to listen to you and get people hanging out and jamming,” he said.

Each act gets just five minutes to impress the judges and the 70 finalists include everything from rock, to classical, to Balkan folk music.

“I look for, ‘are they having a good time,’” said judge Asuza Dance, better known by her stage name Sheshe, who has performed in the subways since 2016.

“I wanna see how they can really move us, inspire us,” said another judge, Gloria Gabriel.

She’s a former executive of Atlantic Records and has worked with dozens of famous musicians, including Aretha Franklin. Though, she notes there’s no better place to start a music career than New York City.

“If you can perform under New York, you can perform anywhere,” she said.

The MTA is expected to add approximately 20 performers to the MTA MUSIC roster this year, with the final decisions being announced in June.