A New Direction in 2017

Greetings from Sturgeon Bay, WI 

I am writing from my new home in Sturgeon Bay, WI. It's north of Green Bay and honestly not even a consideration to visit as I drove around the country this past year. I did meet a wonderful bass player named Tony Menzer in Madison at a blues jam he hosted. Tony expressed with enthusiasm, "you really need to check out what we're doing in Sturgeon Bay. There is a songwriting festival in June that you should apply to." I explained that I was heading west and since it was only October, hard for me to imagine where I would be in June the following year. Well he kept at me and I did find myself as part of the songwriting group this past June. I found a place where music is thriving and as I looked closer a place to call home.

You can follow my world at my Cathy Grier site or on my social media pages using CathyGrierMusic or Cathy Grier as a search. and read more about what I am doing on my "Now" page inspired by Derek Sivers as a way to provide up to date info on my life.

I will also keep my NYCSubwayGirl.com as a resource for buskers in NYC and beyond and hope people will enjoy discovering some of the amazing people and other performers whom I met and filmed as I performed in the Music Under New York Program. I want to thank everyone in the Music Under New York Program especially Tim Higginbotham who has been such an incredible rock for me throughout the years. 

More about the songwriting festival called SteelBridge Fest . It's a place where songwriters meet 3 times a year to write, record and perform the songs written in a cool retro renovated motel called The Holiday Music Motel. And the brainchild of none other than a prolific songwriter named pAt mAcDonald of Timbuk 3 fame. The experience inspired me and I found a new home to live.  After almost 20 years in New York City and most of my life on the east coast (except for the ’90’s when I lived in France), to find myself in the miid-west will bring different and enriching possibilities.

I'd love to hear from you. You can contact me here.

Buskers wrongful arrest settle with NYC

I am never happy writing about abuses I have seen or heard about authorities wanting to harass or worse, incarcerate artists for performing in the subway. The right to legally be able to perform in public spaces was won 30 years ago. I was part of the wonderful BuskNY celebration of that case last summer. You can read more about it and the law in a previous blog: Busking Legal Right Since 1985

There was a case last year that broke my heart, but also showed the strength of human spirit. Andrew Kalleen was performing his acoustic guitar on a Brooklyn platform when he was wrongfully arrested. The video capturing the arrest and entire experience has been seen over 1.5 million times on youtube. I blogged about it at the time Busking Is Not A Crime

Thanks to the exhausting work of Andrew to break through the system and with the support of other artists also wrongfully arrested a case was created and recently settled with the city this past April. You can read more in an article in Gothamist.

I applaud the advocacy group BuskNY which works tirelessly to bring attention, education and support to artists wrongfully arrested or harassed. Here is an excerpt from the Gothamist:
'BuskNY, an advocacy group for underground buskers, announced that the city has strummed up over $100,000 in settlements for the wrongful arrests of performers.
Musicians and activists gathered in the Union Ave. station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Saturday to celebrate the milestone.
Guitarist James Gallagher, 44, and his rapper partner James Woodard, 25, won a recent suit against the city for $54,500.
“You’re not going to become a millionaire down here,” Gallagher said. “But if you want to practice your art and pay your bills, I recommend it.”
Since 1985, music and art performances have been legal in the New York subway system — with no permits needed."
Congratulations to Jadon, James, and Andrew for their hard work getting this news out there.

Music Under NY audition application deadline March 23rd

MUNY is accepting applications for the next auditions till the deadline March 23rd. If you know anyone who is interested or a musician you think would be interested, please ask them to call ASAP 212-878-4678

You can find more info on the website  and download an application. All submission should arrive postdated by March 23rd. 

Gina Higginbotham Mother of Music Under NY

On September 29th we lost Gina Glaser Higginbotham. She was a champion of the arts, of music in public spaces and certainly of keeping music alive and thriving in the subway stations of NYC.  Gina along with her husband Tim (who still is tirelessly working as the MUNY consultant) started the Music Under New York program. What many people did not know is her own personal background as an incredibly talented folk artist in her own right.  As I post this my heart is heavy for Tim and his family at the loss of their dear Gina.  

Gina in one of her favorite places in the world, Venice.  I was always so excited to she her wearing one of my nycsubwaygirl t-shirts.

Gina in one of her favorite places in the world, Venice.  I was always so excited to she her wearing one of my nycsubwaygirl t-shirts.

Gina will be missed. As a member of MUNY since 1999 I was always in awe of Gina's ear and knowledge of music.  She championed music in public spaces and her tireless support for the program was clear every time we would connect during the annual audition process. Happy journey Gina.

RIP Delta Dave Johnson NYC busker

I have performed in the NYC subway's since 1999, I have met so many talented musicians.  One of them, and honestly one of my favorites was Delta Dave.  Sadly he died suddenly of a heart attack last week. I am mourning the loss of this incredibly talented artist, who always had a smile and performed some of the best Delta Blues I've heard in a long time. A quiet soul and to make him even grander, was wheelchair bound. I used to love to come across him performing in the W 4th corridor. One day I asked him what the lyric was he was singing, he replied "what can you do without earth and sky." indeed. 

RIP Delta Dave. I had the pleasure of capturing him on my little camera multiple times.  Here is a clip I made of him a few years back.

an obit written by Music Under NY consultant Tim Higginbotham:

With sadness we announce the passing of our Delta Dave last month. Dave’s sound was founded in the Mississippi Delta and Chicago blues style. His vocals, harmonica and guitar playing while harkening to his influences Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Lightning Hopkins and Howling Wolf… had their own rich authenticity. Dave performed around the world with a number of notable blues musicians - Honey Boy Edwards, John Hammond, Jr., Little Smokey Smothers, Louisiana Red, R L Burnside and more before forming his own band- the Delta Dave Blues Band. They recorded their 1st cd “Pignose Boogie” in Jacksonville, Florida. He later  developed his own “one man band” performing set-up. In 2005 we were pleased to bring Delta Dave onto the Music Under New York roster. Over the years his unique, robust style and good will have been instrumental in the continuing heritage of the blues, as well as the stature of our program.
Delta Dave you are dearly missed but we hear you clearly from the great beyond!
delta dave_by cathygrier

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).

City Lore + BuskNY April 2nd 7pm

I am all about supporting Busking.  NYCSubwayGirl has a For Buskers section where I share useful information about busking in NY.  City Lore and BuskNY have been incredible supporters of the right to Busk. I hope you can make it to this event celebrating 30 years legal precedent for the First Amendment right to Busk. The April 2nd event is the beginning of many celebrations to come throughout the year.

Busking at 30: Sounds and Stories from the Underground
April 2 @ 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

7pm start time. Doors at 6:30pm.
Suggested donation of $5 at the door.
City Lore citylore@citylore.org
56 E. First Street  New York, NY 10003 212.529.1955

With the recent rise in street performer arrests and harassment, Busking at 30 aims to highlight the importance of this underground culture and what it brings to the diverse and vibrant culture of New York City.

The program will feature a history of busking in New York City through vignettes and songs from historical performers of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, as well as a headline performance by one of the subway’s biggest stars, Morgan O’Kane , banjo virtuoso and activist. Other performers include Busker Ball producer Theo Eastwind  ; classical guitarist Lloyd Carew-Reid, whose advocacy group Subway Troubadours Against Repression led the MTA to formally address performers’ rights in its post-1989 rules; and Roger Manning , the guitarist whose historic 1985 legal challenge opened the subway to artistic performance.

30 years after the first case to explicitly recognize New Yorkers’ First Amendment right to artistic expression in the subway, BuskNY  and City Lore are pleased to announce Busking at 30: Sounds and Stories from the Underground, an evening that celebrates and advocates for the enduring art form that has long given voice to the city’s wealth of musical traditions and genres.

Busking at 30 is the first in a series of events leading up to a summer busking festival in celebration of the August anniversary of the People v Manning case, which was the first step in the legalization of subway performance that culminated in 1987.


Video Busker Mashup 2014

A fantastic year of capturing buskers in New York City including having the camera turned toward me while I perform and spontaneously jam with others. Check it out and please share. What we do matters.

What inspires buskers? Music, People, Life, Hot Chocolate, Snow, Love Stories, People of New York!

some of the artists in clip:

Ray Blue, subway car dancers, Innove Gnawa, Melissa Elledge, Delta Dave Johnson, Zach Orion, Courtney Bassett, Mr. Reed, Moon Hooch, Robert Leslie, Burt Lee, Tom Swafford, Tim Higginbotham, Samantha Echo, Raices Group, Matt Vorzimer, Yacouba Diabate, Mecca Bodega, Geo Inti and The Moon, Maestro Moses Josiah, Leah Coloff, Remy Francois, Nadine Simmons, Arlethia, Shogo Kubo, Annette Taylor, Luellen Abdoo, Yaz Band, Samantha Echo, Glenn Roth, Gabriel Aldort, Maya Miele, Ebony Hillbillies, Jason Cordero, Juan Castillo, James Graseck, Suki Rae, Natalia Paruz The Saw Lady, Mike Groisman, Luke Ryan, Robert Anderson Jazz Band, Sean Grissom, Salieu Suso, Train'd singers, Scott Stenten, Poor Cousins, Tailz, Vincent Dennis, Frank Ames, Verbal Ase, Jason Ruan, Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafer, Henry Young, Mairi Mason, Michael Rorby, Omar-violinist, Steve Rubel, Israel Jules, Breakatronz, Alejandro Salvia, Matthew Christian, Courtney Bassett, Jovan Johnson eBONE Underground, Erik Robert Jacobson,  Sara Giraldo, Andy Friedberg, Elizabeth Watts, Will McCain, Niles Luther,  Sung Lee (Beatbox), The Family (Street Bucket Drummers)

instruments and performers represented: 
bagpipes, ukulele, flute, trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, alto sax, soprano sax, cajon, didgerdoo, hammered dulcimer, saw, bucket drums, snare drum, electronic drums, violin, fiddle, accordion,electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 8 string guitar, double neck guitar, classical guitar, banjo, blues harmonica, harp, double bass, electric bass, kora, electric piano, washboard,cello, breakdancers, Chinese ErHu,


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

Music Under NY Violinist Luellen Abdoo Sparks Grand Central Tango

I was recently approached by fellow Music Under New York artist Luellen Abdoo who asked me to film a short music video of her. Still dizzy with excitement from my recent Chain Film Festival Best Documentary Web Series win, I was happy to put my energy into a fun video like this.

Thanks Luellen!  

R train returns to Whitehall Station

Today the R train returns to service at Whitehall St aka South Ferry after being flooded by Hurricane Sandy almost 2 years ago.  If you are heading to and from Brooklyn you will be very happy to have a much shorter commute after 14 months out of service. I have a fondness for the station because it was one of the last new stations to open with a fantastic art installation from Doug and Mike Starn for Arts For Transit which commissions mosaic and station art installations throughout the city. I was the Music Under New York artist who performed for the opening of the installation. It was also at a time where I was only beginning to think of recording in video some of my underground experiences. I made a short clip.  Here it is and some images from that special day.  I like to think from that day was born my Inspiration Project

past blogs about the station:

After Hurricane Sandy flooded the station: South Ferry Art Underwater

The opening day of the installation: South Ferry Installation, by Mike and Doug Starn

Chain Film Fest screening now online

The first screening of my films was last night. It was a fun night of meeting other film makers and seeing great films with an NYC theme. The next screening will be Thursday August 14, at 9 PM of my Documentary Short film, The Inspiration Project, and Web Series selection, Music Under NY Auditions 2013.

The Official Selection versions are below and you can rate them on the Chain Film Festival website, see the links below each clip. Even if you can't attend the screenings in person, I invite you to share with your friends and family.

link to rate Music Under NY Auditions 2013 web series on the Chain Film Fest website

link to rate The Inspiration Project short documentary on the Chain Film Fest website

I want to thank everyone over the years who has answered the question, "What Your Inspiration?" and in doing so, motivating me to continue asking and finding beauty in spontaneous interactions with passersby. This project would not be possible without you all. 

Thanks so much!

The Chain Film Festival continues until August 17.  There are some wonderful films in this charming Film Festival in Long Island City, NY. Get Directions I plan on going to many of the screenings.  See the schedule here

Q+A with festival director KIrk GostKowski photo by Ini Udosen

Q+A with festival director KIrk GostKowski photo by Ini Udosen

Picked from hundreds of submissions from all over the world, The Chain NYC Film Festival is presenting 108 films. From short documentaries to full length narratives and web series; encompassing work from filmmakers in Australia, Belgium, France, UK as well as our own Long Island City; an innovative and diverse set of topics is curated in thematic groups, featuring both indie actors on the brink of stardom as well as actors such as Academy Award Nominee Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), Louis Lombardi (The Sopranos), Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy), and the debut lead performance of 2014 Miss Golden Globes, Sosie Bacon (Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick’s daughter).
Films will be presented on a rotating schedule from August 4 through August 17.Tickets are $10 for all performances. For more information please visit www.chainfilmfestival.com.

music + a tasting of Grand Central in Vanderbilt Hall

Grand Central Terminal is bustling with 1000's of commuters each day. Inside the station is a wonderful market, little shops, a fun informative Transit Museum, a lower level food court, and just a fun place to people watch.  Every Monday in July from 11-2pm and 4-7pm Vanderbilt Hall will be a place for Free tastings, special offers and more from Grand Central shops and restaurants with Music provided by Music Under New York artists.  

I perform today July 7th from 4-7pm.  Come by for a unique experience. Even if you miss me today, come by on Monday's to see the charm of Grand Central Terminal. Here's the link for the schedule of Music Under New York artists for the event.

Make Music NY Saturday. Live Music Everywhere

Make Music New York:  1000+ Concerts. One Day. Five Boroughs. Above + Below Ground.


Today's blog is what I'll call the unofficial Music Under New York - Make Music New York listing, because at Music Under New York, we celebrate live and free music (price of a subway fare) 365 days out of the year. I love the idea of one crazy day with so much free live music, that I also wanted to share where to find the Music Under New York musicians on this special day

On June 21, 1989 I flew from NYC to Paris, France. When I landed, I found myself in the midst of an uproarious yet melodic commotion that I'd never known. It was the "Fete de la musique,"  an outdoor festival of music held on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. I am happy to be a part of the festivities this year on this side of the world. 

New York City is always full of music, life and song, to imagine it more magical is nearly impossible. However, for the past eight years, Make Music New York has taken our magical chaos to whole new level. 

This Saturday, June 21, Make Music New York returns to celebrate the beginning of summer with over 1000 concerts and music performances throughout the five boroughs. Public parks, sidewalks, venues, block parties and music schools, are just some examples of where you will stumble into a magical musical experience. And as always, the underground will be bustling with music. 


For the above-ground schedule check out Make Music New York's website.

For underground schedule, Here's the list of Music Under New York performances this Saturday! Please pass along to your friends.

                                        click on above image for a larger format

I'll be using #MMNYBuskers to share spontaneous performances from the underground throughout the day.

Here are a couple of busker friends with above-ground gigs on Saturday!

SisterMonk performs @ 6:15 PM at the East River Park Bandshell-Music all day, (SisterMonk a Music Under NY member, will perform at three different venues during the festival in Brooklyn and Manhattan) Here's a clip I recorded of them in the underground at Grand Central Station Mezzanine.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the all female mariachi band, will perform at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza- 346 E. 47th St at 1pm. Below is a clip I made of their Music Under New York audition. 

And here's a little something for aspiring musicians and future buskers!

    •    Free Guitar Lessons at some NYPL branches. Guitars for lessons provided. Sponsored by GAMA and Little Kids Rock (sponsored by Yamaha and Godin

Summer Solstice- MUSIC Underground June 21

Times Square/42 Street/Upper Mezzanine

  • 12-3__Grupo Wayno, S. American music
  • 3-6___ El Vaté, Andean pipes
  • 6-10__ Eric Paulin & the Meetles, jazz & tribute band

Times Square/41 Street/ Mosaics

  • 8am-12__Susan Keser, classical/pop violin
  • 12-3____Mecca Bodega, world music
  • 3-6_____ Tony Pots & Pans, percussion

42 Street/ 8 Avenue

  • 12-4__Nadine Simmons, Gospel, pop singer
  • 4-7___Raices Group, Inca music

34 Street/6 Avenue

14 Street/ Union Square

Columbus Circle/60 Street

Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street (Barclays Ctr)

  • 12-4__Maetro Moses Josiah, saw player
  • 4-7__Delta Dave, blues guitar & singer

LIRR # 2 (next to McDonalds)

  • 12-3__Acapella Soul, doo wop vocals
  • 3-6__Rober Anderson Jazz Band
  • 6-9__Lawrence Rush & Underground Harmony
  • 9pm-12am__”The Sugar Bear” Kahn Hightower R&B, soul singer

LIRR # 3 (8th Avenue)

  • 12-3__Sammie C. Davis “Mr Melody”, pop, soul singer

Whitehall Ferry Terminal

Grand Central Terminal/Lower Level

  • 10am-1__Maya Miele, solo guitar

Grand Central Terminal/Graybar


Music is such an important part of all of our lives whether we realize it or not. I hope you get out and enjoy all that Make Music - Fete De La Musique has to offer where ever you live. 

NYC Buskers: A Video Gallery

I have been performing in the New York City Subway for years and in doing so, I have become a member of an amazing and talented community of performers and musicians. We are scattered out on platforms and stations and spidering throughout the city.  

The heart of this community pulses through the transit system, streets and parks.  I am drawn in as much as any passerby when I hear an instrument or see a crowd forming, but I join the viewers with a deep sense of pride. 

I love this community I have become a part of and I want to share their spontaneous and moving performances with the world. I have compiled many clips of buskers throughout my years and have compiled a Busker Video Gallery on my website. 

Each week I put up a new "Featured Artist," and continue to add to the gallery of my community. 

This week's Featured Video is doo-wop group The Chosen Voices performing "Twisting the Night Away."  On the day I filmed this, they were getting off one car and about to jump on the next when they saw me and shouted out "Hey SubwayGirl!" I called for them to come over and sing for me and they did.  These are the spontaneous moments that are so precious to me.


Fellow buskers should feel empowered to share my videos on their pages and with their fans; or you can send me videos and I will add them to the gallery. 

I have also compiled a list of buskers and their websites. If you find a mistake or you are a busker looking to be added to the list, please email me.

For those interested in busking in New York City, I have extensive information about rules and regulations of MTA, NYC, and information about the Music Under New York program here.

The 2014 Music Under New York new artists have offically been announced. Find them here. Great job to all those who auditioned.