The Flame-Tooting Tuba Player

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The flame-tooting tuba player has two top hats. He wears one, and the other sits in front of him and collects coins. I circle the block with my accordion on my back; I am searching for a place to play, but how can I compete?

“It’s all bouquets and brickbats, as they say,” says Steve Marshall, a saxophone player from Cornwall who plays under Blackfriars bridge in London. He likes there to be some natural resonance so the sound doesn’t get lost.

When I ask how much he makes on a good day, he shrugs and says, “I don’t worry about it.” People stroll along the river. Most do not stop to listen. A couple sits on a ledge nearby. Perhaps they will throw a coin in the saxophone case, but most likely they will continue on their way.