In a city with no shortage of musical talent, it's often hard to get noticed. But two young street performers playing classical music on their violins are drawing crowds on the streets of SoHo. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.
Of all the sounds echoing through the streets of Manhattan, one often prompts busy New Yorkers to stop, and listen.
It's quite an accomplishment in a city teeming with street musicians. Even more so when it's the music of Mozart and Debussy.
Sean Bennett and Samir Robinson have been doing this for two years.
"We get nothing but good reaction," Bennett said.
"People say, 'You sound amazing.' And once they go on to ask our age, and we tell them that he's 21 and I'm 19, they're like, 'You're so young.'"
They also don't live here.
New York has long attracted out-of-towners trying to make it big in the big city, even street musicians.
Bennett and Robinson are from Philadelphia, nearly 100 miles away. Twice a week, they travel two hours by bus to Manhattan, seeking notice in a city not short on talent.
"New York represents possibilities," Bennett said.
Bennett and Robinson picked up the violin as fourth graders in inner-city Philadelphia.
Guided by teachers and nonprofit groups, they began winning awards and even played before crowds at the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
"I would have to say more than 15 times. I'm going to say like 10 to 15 times," Bennett said.
Don Liuzzi has mentored them ever since they played in his youth orchestra.
"I noticed the first rehearsal hearing this underneath my ear as I was conducting. 'Wow, this kid, this kid can play,'" Liuzzi said.
Looking to hone his craft and earn money, Bennett began street performing in Philadelphia. He was just 12.
It wasn't long before he met and bonded with Robinson over their love of classical music.
They quickly joined forces and began leaning on each other for support in a field where very few people look like them. According to a recent study, only 1.8 percent of American orchestra members are black.
"When you usually see violinists, it's usually white or Asian people, people of lighter complexion. It's not usually Hispanics or minorities," Bennett said.
In SoHo, they've discovered buildings that are ready made for their act.
"It reminds me of like a stage," Robinson said.
It's an atmosphere that has made them better players.
"We don't get that in Philly. That's why we come here," Bennett said.
"And on the emotional side of things, I remember the first time we got a big crowd, I was like, 'Sean, I'm scared.' And he's been doing it since he was like 12, and he's like, 'Just play,'" Robinson said.
They say they typically make about $400 playing for four hours. Along the way, they've gotten gigs and won the respect of New Yorkers.
"I said to them, 'Black excellence.' Because it's beautiful to hear brothers out here playing music and actually inspiring others," said one New Yorker.
Bennett and Robinson are now saving to attend a performing arts college, hoping to make classical music a career.
"I want what I want. And I feel like anything is attainable if you just want it enough," Bennett said."
In New York, they are learning that is true, a city with endless possibilities.