Philadelphia Metropolis

Metropolis Report


Street Music: The Underground Duo

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By Elise Vider

Down in Suburban Station, where the temperatures are cool and the acoustics are good, Austin Lightfoot and Adam Bassal are providing musical accompaniment to the morning rush hour with a fast-paced violin duet. Business is only so-so; most commuters coming off Regional Rail are hell bent on getting their coffee and to the office.

But no matter, says Lightfoot, 19. "If I had to do this for free, I probably would." A compact and intense 19-year-old, he's serious about music, preparing to enter Boston's Berklee College of Music this fall as a double major in music performance and music therapy.

Bassal is following a less traditional path, training to become a professional, heavyweight boxer, though he says he'll always play music. He's a violinist and trumpet player, but he isn't he worried about injury. The lanky 18-year-old just shrugs: "I have tough hands, I guess."

Austin and Adam - they toy with calling themselves "Double A" - have been busking part time for the last few summers, usually playing classical violin duets for two hours in the morning and making as much as $100 to split. It's a much better hourly rate than they can make working typical summer jobs slinging fast food and, besides says Austin, "We're doing what we like to do." And the job has other rewards like the occasional wedding gig. Lightfoot & Bassal Perform.jpg

The duo limits its busking to Suburban Station, where Bassal says "people seem happy to hear music." They like the orderly process afforded by SEPTA - reserved time slots, designated performance areas and friendly police officers - and the acoustics and climate control are a big plus.

Lightfoot and Bassal have each been playing since their respective childhoods in Wynnefield and Northeast Philly.

They got a classical music education and found each other at the city's High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), from which Austin graduated this year, Adam last.

The acclaimed music program at the school has provided opportunities like the chance for Lightfoot to do a string arrangement and perform with the Dixie Hummingbirds at Penn Treaty Park on "For the Love of God."

He also made it all the way to the nationals in Kansas City earlier this summer in the NAACP's Act-So competition for young musicians.

With Boston and the boxing ring beckoning, Double A's busking days may be limited. But when they're there, in their choice spot near a Suburban Station staircase, the young violinists' rush-hour serenade is worth slowing down for - and a buck or two in their violin case would be nice, too.   

A video of Lightfoot and Bassal playing in Suburban Station:


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