Music Under New York Audition Quote
Rail funky music: Acts compete to go underground
By KATHRYN CUSMA and SELIM ALGAR
Dozens of street musicians — hailing from Brooklyn to Burkina Faso — battled it out yesterday for a handful of coveted spots on the MTA’s roster of official buskers.
The winners get prime real estate and time slots in the busiest subway stations across the city — which means more donations from riders.
More than 200 groups at Grand Central Terminal tried to pluck, tap and warble their way into the hearts of a judging panel — who will ultimately pick 20 to become part of the MTA’s “Music Under New York” program.
“This is a very coveted event,” said Kevin Moehringer of the Brooklyn-based High and Mighty Brass Band.
“You can sneak into the subway, but to have an official permit is like a rite of passage in this hip underground music scene.”
Some musicians impressed the judges by playing rare instruments — like Brooklyn’s Naomi Frank, 26, who played an Appalachian dulcimer.
For those not up on their music history, that’s a three-to-four- string instrument with a “fretted” neck, not unlike a guitar.
“Musicians get very territorial, especially in high-traffic areas,” Frank said, explaining why competition for the program has become so fierce.
One Norwegian national, who now lives in Queens, squeezed out Outkast covers on the unlikeliest of instruments — an accordion.
Julian Hintz, 37, said he picked up the instrument to land tips — and ladies.
“I used to tell girls that I played the drums, and it was, like, OK, another drummer,” he explained.
“Then I just decided to say I played the accordion, because it’s sexier.”
Other musicians competed because they’re out of work and see it as a good way to make money.
“I’ve been unemployed for a while and have had time to practice, so I figured I should just go and do it. Like, why not?” said Kate Demagistris, 27, of Westchester, who plays the baroque harpsichord.
The former piano player admitted to ditching the instrument because of her small hands and “weird thumbs.”
Candidates played for five minutes before the panel of judges composed of MTA officials and fellow musicians and artists.
There are currently 200 acts in the MUNY program.