U2 busks NYC 4 Jimmy Fallon

You've most likely heard about U2's surprise busking in Grand Central at the Shuttle location. While it's awesome they did this, let's not forget they are rich rock stars. The performers to celebrate, are the 100's of artists who perform every day never sure how much money they'll make.  Buskers are keeping live music thriving in ways that recordings and record company support isn't doing.  I am always saying it's a rush to busk in NYC and stage performers should try it at least once. Let's keep this in perspective. And I hope Jimmy Fallon starts a segment where he goes around the city showcasing the amazing talent there is. 

A reminder, here's the clip I made celebrating over 100 buskers in NYC whom I filmed throughout last year (including yours truly at the Shuttle).

Signal Strength a cool clip

This is a perfect example of Music and Art in public spaces. I love to share great things that occur anytime subway musicians are featured.  Here's a wonderfully executed video clip by film maker Chris Shimojima of subway performers stationed in nine different locations synced by wi-fi and conducted live in Bryant Park by composer LJOVA. Amazing.

Listen to the studio recording
composed and conducted by LJOVA
produced by ANITA ANTHONJ

I am happy to know many of these musicians.  We are so lucky to have such talent performing in the stations and public spaces of NYC.  

accordion ALBERT BEHAR
beatbox ADAM MATTA check out the clip I made of Adam for the Inspiration Project
theremin LLAMANO
trumpet JORDAN HIRSCH                                                                                                               viola ALLYSON CLARE

NYC Busking Is Not a Crime

With the recent arrest of NYC busker Andrew Kalleen and the questions people have been asking me, I thought I'd write about it to clarify some things. I do not have a permit, I don't need one to be able to perform in the subway's and stations of NYC. I do belong to a program that schedules my performances at locations within stations.  It's called Music Under NY and short name is MTA Music. But that doesn't mean having a schedule with MTA Music means I can't play elsewhere within the stations.  It is NOT a permit.

There are 2 very important rules: 1- you can't impede traffic and 2- you can't amplify.  Andrew did neither.  Andrew's impressive knowledge of Section 1050.6 of the MTA rules of conduct knew his rights.  The arresting officer even though he at first said he wasn't arresting Andrew but evicting him, had no legal reason to do so.  He even read the section out loud and still didn't believe his own words. Thankfully it was filmed in it's entirety without any edits and it's clear in the 7+ min clip, how much courage Andrew had to continue to sing while having his guitar stripped from him and then be taken away in handcuffs.

As friend and writer Don Hubbard noted "Cathy Grier, we need you out there supporting buskers being arrested in Brooklyn! The poor guy's only crime was that he was playing Pink Floyd."

Here's the clip of Andrew's performance and arrest, you be the judge:

Check out my section For Buskers  which has lots of information regarding busker rights.

Here is the section that every busker should know about:

Use Of The Transit System of MTA rules

Rules of Conduct Section 1050.6 (c).

(bold highlights are mine for emphasis)

(c) Except as expressly permitted in this subdivision, no person shall engage in any nontransit uses upon any facility or conveyance. Nontransit uses are noncommercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations; solicitation for religious or political causes; solicitation for charities that: (1) have been licensed for any public solicitation within the preceding 12 months by the Commissioner of Social Services of the City of New York under section 21-111 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York or any successor provision; (2) are duly registered as charitable organizations with the Attorney General of New York under section 172 of the New York Executive Law or any successor provision; or, (3) are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code or any successor provision. Solicitors for such charities shall provide, upon request, evidence that such charity meets one of the preceding qualifications.

Follow this link scroll to read entire 1050.6 and 1050.7

MTA Rules of performing Link from NY.GOV website

Entertaining on the Subway 

The Rule which regulates the provision of entertainment on the subway is Section 1050.6 (c).   Some features of this Rule are listed below. This description should NOT be considered a full explanation of all aspects of this rule, but only a brief and general summary. All persons who are interested in performing on the subway and who wish to avoid violating the law are strongly advised to contact New York City Transit beforehand to get a copy of the Rules of Conduct, as well as a more complete explanation of their requirements.

Some general rules for performing on the subway include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. Artistic performances on transit facilities are permitted, but only if they are in accordance with the following rules AND if they do not impede transit activities, including access to the trains and stations and the free movement of passengers. All artistic performances which violate these rules OR which impede transit activities are forbidden.

articles 2-13 read on for the rest of the rules of conduct

Summer Streets Park Ave car free

This Saturday I will be performing above ground during Summer Streets, an event created by the City of NY (Lead Dog Marketing-agent).  Music Under NY artists have been invited to perform during the event. What's exciting is that Park Ave will be closed to vehicular traffic until 2pm.

A performance stage will be set at 51st and Park Avenue. I will be performing from 9:30-10am. There is a full line-up of other Music Under NY artists until 12:30pm. We're always happy to be performing in public spaces, and what a treat it will be to be doing so on one of the most iconic streets in NYC and above ground.  

Hope to see you there.

Here's the lineup:

The Knix Mix Interviews Artists of NYC Busker Ball VII

Earlier this week, I called into the radio show The Knix Mix with Karen Nix, and was interviewed about the upcoming NYC Busker Ball VII. Stream the interview with Karen, myself, and others here. And find all the info below for next week's Busker Ball!

You can hear The Knix Mix every Friday night 10PM to Midnight on Community Radio WERU FM 89.9 Blue Hill, 99.9 Bangor. Streaming on the web at WERU.org.

In the subway! Looking forward to next week's above ground performance. (Image by Nousha Salami)

Update: Brits Set New World Record for NYC Subway

A few weeks ago I posted about a group of friends from England who broke the World Record for visiting NYC Subway stops. You can read that story here.  Adham Fisher, who I met during his first attempt, sent me a great image of him accepting the official world record certificate in his NYC Subway Girl T-shirt! 

Adham rocking my shirt and his world record!

Also, I wrote that the world record included the Staten Island Rail, (SIR), however, Adham informed me that, while he and his team did ride the SIR, it was not a included in the world record.

Thanks again Adham and good luck on breaking more world records in the future! 

ScratchBox Project: An Interactive Neighborhood Art Installation

A few weeks ago while walking the poodles, I stumbled upon an interesting array of light bottles in Madison Square Park. It was a group of artists and designers promoting the Scratchbox Project. Of course, I asked them to scratch the poodles in the bottle!

The bottles are coated with a special paint that scratches away to reveal the light beneath and, of course, the art.

This interactive project aims to build relationships within a community by encouraging residents to share their experiences within it. In doing so, each person will get to know both the place and the people living in it. Check out the short video below!

The first Scratchbox event and panels are set to go up at First Green Street on August 16 & 17. The team at Scratchbox are crowdsourcing this project through a Kickstarter campaign that is in its final day! As a huge supporter of art, music, and life in public spaces, I want to see them succeed in this campaign. Check out more about the project on their Kickstarter page! 


#poodlesnyc and me @Gothamist

I walk my poodles around my neighborhood every day.  The comments I receive are lovely and people want to talk, and pet and smile. I've gotten so used to people taking pictures, I finally created a hashtag #poodlesnyc so I can find the images people take. But in the image below is one case where I didn't see the photographer and was surprised to find the image pop up on the Gothamist blog thanks to a friend seeing it on a Facebook post.  The title of the blog post is hysterical "Extra, Extra: NYC Seeing Influx Of White People." photo by bytegirl/Flicker

It made my day.  And I've just spent the past few hours taking off the poodle hair for their summer cut. I like them best with the hair longer, but it's really hot walking around in 90 degrees with a fur coat.

photo by byte girl/Flickr

photo by byte girl/Flickr

After their summer haircut, we returned to the spot where the above image was taken.  Here they are.  

and PS don't joke with me and say that I should go into the poodle grooming biz…. I do it because I love them. and I'm not really very good at it as you can see by the uneven hair.  I call it a Mommy cut.


Spring NYCSubwayGirl Newsletter

The Neighbors Exhibition Nears its Final Days at the New Museum 

Continues to Encourage Community, Connection, and to Fuel The Inspiration Project


Hello, I have two more scheduled performances during the final weeks of Polish sculptor  Pawel Althamer’s New Museum exhibition (located at 235 Bowery south of Houston St). The Neighbors exhibit has featured over 50 street musicians and buskers since its opening in early February. 

I'm scheduled to perform as a part of this collaborative exhibition this Sunday April 6, from 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again on Saturday April 12, from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit ends April 20, 2014.

The inclusion of street performers in the lobby of the New Museum has not only brought many musicians in out of the cold NYC winter, but it has been a place to capture inspired people. 

I have used this performance space to film many new clips for my Inspiration Project. These clips not only showcase inspirations but also the spirit of community that is at the core of the exhibition. 

If you know of any blogs or sites you think that might be interested in posting The Inspiration Project please pass on the link. You can also grab the RSS feed.

The Inspiration Project Comes to Life as a Motivational Workshop

I want to share with you a new direction for NYCSubwayGirl and my Inspiration Project. After hundreds of hours of footage and clips from the underground, I have developed a workshop that uses the "Power of a Question" to create genuine human connections. The results have been really exciting for me.

Contact me if you are interested in knowing more about how to bring the Inspiration project to your conference, event or gathering. 


here's a clip featuring gHSTS n gUITARS.


Happy Spring,



Beer + Busking?

NYC has a lot of different events created to entertain us.  This week it's restaurant week, where some can get a chance to dine at a favorite restaurant or one we've always wanted to but can't afford with a prix fix menu. This week is also named Beer week.  The kick off is tonight in the grand hall of the grandest train station, Grand Central, in Vanderbilt Hall. (the event is sold out).

I'll be performing with other Music Under New York musicians Salieu Suso (African Kora player) and the crazy fun Xylofolks (performing dressed in costumes like either a Tex Avery cartoon, or a sporting team mascot, take your pick).

I'm not really a beer drinker, but I think with all the micro breweries popping up all over the 5 Boroughs, tonight might be a good night to get me hooked (after I play of course).  I got the gig thanks to brewer and sax player Chris Cuzme.  He'll be there pouring beer from his brewery 508 Gastro Brewery in soho (Greenwich St @ Spring). I'm also interested in tasting The Bronx brewery Gun Hill Brewing (that's where my Mom grew up-oops sorry Mom, not in the brewery, on Gun Hill Rd).

Check out these clips I've made of the Xylofolks and Salieu Suso from my NYCSubwaygril video gallery of artists archives.

NYC Subway Girl films The Xylopholks perform their own special brand of "fuzzy ragtime xylophone" at 34th St.

Kora player Salieu Suso sings a song just for NYC Subway Girl at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal

Street I Am, Guest Blogger about Buskers @NewMuseum

Street I Am is about about: Street Entertainment News – Street Art, Buskers, Street Performance, gatherings, festivals, parades.  I am happy to post their recent blog about the opening night at the New Museum where I performed.  Also featuring another street performer Jacob Cohen the subway cello.  Read on…...

1_street i am_logo.jpg

February 19, 2014 by Iru Streetiam 

Subway Buskers meet The Neighbors, Pawel Althamer

Subway buskers in collaboration @NewMuseum - Pawel althamer ” The Neighbors” Sculpture and Music as One -

Collaboration commences as Subway Cello sets tone at exhibit opening,- NYCSubwaygirl to follow -

Two of New York City’s finest subway buskers are a part of an innovative gallery experience at the New Museum in NYC. Polish born sculptor Pawel Althamer’s, The Neighbors exhibit runs into the month of April. The sound track is provided by some of the best street musicians in town.


subway buskers One of these outstanding subway buskers is Jacob Cohen from NYC, known as the Subway Cello. He is seen here playing his heart out for the exhibit’s Grand Opening. Positioned  in the middle of the visitors creative space, he set the tone for collaboration. People who attend the exhibit are invited to draw an the walls as you see in the picture. Musicians play live music from the street below the gallery. The live music is broadcast throughout rooms of magnificent sculpture. 


Althamer-roomfull A multi-level collaboration.

The Subway Cello has many styles and all of them resonate with a timbre of sophistication. Sometimes classic sometimes jazz, maybe hip hop or even pornographic. His many sides are revealed for one and all on his website and his YouTube documentary. Jacob Cohen Documentary

 and here's another Street I Am post by Patrick Rulh 

Busking NYCSubwaygirl one of The Neighbors collaborates in Althamer Exhibit @NewMuseum

The 2nd of the subway buskers, Cathy Grier has a website http://nycsubwaygirl.com and a lot more. She not only loves to play in the subway but she likes to write about it too. This is part of what she has to say about the Pawel Althamer exhibit The Neighbors

On thursday February 20th from 6-9 pm I will be performing at the New Museum during the Pawel Althamer exhibition. Pawel wanted to have street musicians performing during the exhibit to express the idea of collaboration and connection. I will be performing from time to time until April 12th (here’s a link to my schedule).  Many other street musicians have been selected to also perform.

Someone asked me why I don’t consider this a concert series in a museum lobby. I am being amplified so that the live music is carried up into the exhibition onto the 3rd floor. Since I have seen the exhibition, it changes the way I perform.

Cathy Grier – NYC Subway Girl : The Back of the Busk

This documentary will give you some music and a chance to meet this New York City talent.

Music + Art Mashup @NewMuseum Feb 20th 6-9pm

COAT Drive @ New Museum (235 Bowery) ongoing through APRIL 20th

In many of his previous museum exhibitions, Althamer has used the visibility and resources of the organizing institution to benefit different local communities. For “The Neighbors,” Althamer has initiated a coat drive for the Bowery Mission, the Museum’s neighboring organization, which has been serving the homeless and hungry since 1879. Over the course of the exhibition, visitors who bring new or gently used men’s coats to the New Museum will receive free entry. All the coats will be donated to the Bowery Mission.

On thursday February 20th from 6-9 pm I will be performing at the New Museum during the Pawel Althamer exhibition. Pawel wanted to have street musicians performing during the exhibit to express the idea of collaboration and connection. I will be performing from time to time until April 12th (here's a link to my schedule).  Many other street musicians have been selected to also perform. 

Someone asked me why I don't consider this a concert series in a museum lobby. I am being amplified so that the live music is carried up into the exhibition onto the 3rd floor. Since I have seen the exhibition, it changes the way I perform.  For me there are 2 points of view, one from the perspective of where I am physically performing in the lobby as people enter and as they wait for the elevator, and the other, where the music through speakers is part of the aural landscape of the exhibition. Much like performing in public spaces, people are on their way to something, the fact that a performer happens to be on their route is not static or stationary as a concert would be. Having the music as a live soundtrack for an art installation switches the dynamic of performance. I hear and see things differently in this situation and find intriguing the mashup of music + art. Something that is new to my world. When I shared this thought with Pawel, he responded "welcome to the temple." 

It's a wonderful opportunity for me create spontaneous soundscapes.  I sing or play choral arrangements based on my memory of a piece, say for example the whimsical one of Pawel imagining himself living in a suitcase….  I hope to see you at one of my performances.

check Pawel's Inspiration video clip here

And if you bring a gently worn or new men's coat to the musuem you'll get free admission and they will in turn donate the coat to the neighbors at the Bowery Mission.

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New Museum brings me in from the cold

I'm really excited to have been invited along with a great lineup of other NYC subway musicians, buskers and street performers to perform at the New Museum 235 Bowery. NYC, as a musical layer of a new exhibition entitled The Neighbors by Pawel Althamer  February 12-April 20th

here's my New Museum performance schedule:

  • Thursday 20th February   6-9 pm
  • Friday 28th February 11:00 am-2:30 pm
  • Friday March 14th 11:00-2:30pm
  • Thursday 20th March 2:30-6:00 pm
  • Friday 21st March  2:30-6:00 pm
  • Sunday 6th April 11:00 am-2:30 pm
  • Saturday 12th April  2:30-6:00 pm

It would be fun for you to come by and experience a wonderful mashup of music and art. Who knows what will happen.  I certainly will be continuing my Inspiration Project where I ask people what inspires them.

The Neighbors has many layers of collaboration. On the 2nd floor Pawel will be creating new work. On the 4th Floor will be a completely interactive room where anyone can come and paint on the walls, create art.  And in true collaboration with neighbors, Pawel will create a film with Bowery Mission tenants (neighbors of the New Museum). There will also be a coat drive. 

Watch below what inspires Pawel.

A Busker's Life

I arrived at 34th st today at 12 and it was really cold (below freezing with a draft). It took me a while to set up.  As I was setting up a young boy and a woman stopped to talk to me wondering what I was doing. I told them I would be singing and playing the guitar.  The boy asked if I could sing God Bless America, which I did a weird version accapella (honestly could never remember the line "Thru the night with a light from above."

Then the woman asked if I would give the boy a t-shirt which I did, and asked him if I could take his picture.  Here it is:

I asked his name and he told me Duwan. I then asked him for an inspiration and he said "My Grandmother and God and SubwayGirl."  Really cute.  The woman I learned was his Aunt's name was Sha and her inspiration? "God, positive people, family, you. Seeing you down here doing this, keeping up on life, trying to make something happen, just a blessing, just a blessing."

I asked if Duwan would sing me a song and sang God Bless America, but not the version I sang.  He sang:

God Bless America, he says dat I can do anything I want

if I behave in class and go to college

'cause God is good."

What version is that I asked? and he replied it was his own. So he just freestyled the song right there in cold 34th st. station.

A guy walked up + asked me for $1 for a cup of coffee, which I let him take out of my tip box, where I always have a few dollars I put in beforehand. By my accounting I was down one t-shirt and $1 before I even started singing!. Then I sang and it was so cold that my breath fogged up my glasses and my finger tips were ice cold. I got tipped by a homeless guy $1, so I was back to earning $0. It was too cold too play, so I packed up and left the spot for the eager breakdancers who are always at the ready to take the spot no matter what the weather.  And immediately a crowd gathered.

Metro-card swipe cost me $2.50 moneywise it was not a good day, but the little bit of time that I was there was really inspiring.

TreeCycle MulchFest

Recycling your Christmas tree is a simple way to do more than just buy a tree and throw it away without any sustainably conscious consideration.  Obviously I'd prefer people to find other ways to celebrate the holiday without having to cut a tree down, but I don't want to be a grinch.  The NYC sanitation department picks up trees curbside.  Maybe next year you can come up with another way.

sort of a sad looking Urban Pine Tree forest, but it sure smells lovely

sort of a sad looking Urban Pine Tree forest, but it sure smells lovely

Happy New Year Kids

I met these kids on my way to my first gig of 2014 at the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall terminal.  They were so cute with their 2014 glasses and hat, and their Mom allowed me to take this snap.  Too bad I didn't get their names as they rushed for their train.

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year kids, Bowling Green Station

Happy New Year kids, Bowling Green Station

Grand Central Holiday Train Show

If you love model trains, each year in Grand Central Terminal they install the most wonderful train show.  This is one of my top 10 Holiday reasons to love NYC.

Enjoy this time lapse fllm of the installation.

The show runs through February 23, 2014.

New York Transit Museum: http://mta.info/museum/
Trains by Lionel: http://www.lionel.com/
Model layout designed and built by T W TrainWorx:http://www.twtrainworx.com/

Paris Subway Performers audition

I lived in Paris in the '90's before I became a NYC subway musician (busker). I've returned to France many times over the years and have always appreciated the music found on the streets and in the subway. Maybe one day you'l find me there.  ParisSubwayGirl seems like a good idea! or guess that would have to be ParisMetroFille!

I wanted to share this NY Times story about the audition process by Liz Alderman

Here's a video of some of those underground musicans and sounds that I made a few years back when I brought my neice to visit for her graduation from High School.

Spenser Mestel's BuskOff

Spenser met me in Grand Central in late March 2013. He listened to me perform and then we walked outside and sat in Bryant Park to chat about my subway experiences for his blog Busk Off - A Subterranean Look at New York City. It was still a bit too cold to be outside, but there was Spring in the air and I was hopeful.

From Spenser Mestel, "To be clear, this blog is not trying to describe Twenty-Something Urban Life or The New York Experience.  Instead, I want to see how passionate people navigate this city, and I think the subway is a great lens through which to do that.  To the best of my ability, I’ve fact-checked what my sources have told me or indicated that it’s their version of events.  At times, I’ve changed my interviewees’ names out of respect for their privacy or professional integrity. If you feel these decisions diminish the legitimacy of the blog, then I’d remind you that this is not journalism proper.  For lack of a better word, Busk Off is a series of vignettes about people far braver than I am, struggling to entertain perhaps the world’s most hostile audience.  I am extremely grateful for their time and cooperation, and I hope you read something that resonates with you.  At the very least, if you ever find yourself almost alone on a subway platform late at night, and a guitarist finishes his cover of “The Trapeze Swinger,” I hope you applaud. He’s trying his best."

 "BuskOff" A Subterranean Look at New York City

Spenser tells my story through his lens buskoff.com/#/cathy-grier-subway-girl/

Thanks Spenser.

The Back Of The Busk webseries

Back Story to the clip: Last October, Mithun Bhat and Nick Capezzera saw me performing in Grand Central and filmed my performance for their up and coming web series, "The Back Of The Busk." In turn I filmed them for my Inspiration Project. The next day, Mithun and crew traveled to Union Square to interview me for their episode.

It's fun to see how my episode turned out. In it I sing my songs: What Fools Do, Good Thing, Through My Eyes, and Comin' Back To Me.

Check out inspirations from Mithun, Michael, Nick, and Hardy the rest of the film crew, and to help in better context, one from Music Under NY musician Delpin Tardio whom I mentioned in the Back Of The Busk interview.