Music Underground

By Chloe Keen

New York City subways are noisy – screeching train brakes and the din of human voices. But there’s also music down under.

Musicians in the subway “enhance the transit experience for customers,” according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s mass transit.

Some of the subway musicians are part of Music Under New York, a program to showcase the city’s diverse talent. 

In an effort to humanize the subway experience and capitalize on the acoustics found in some stations, the MTA established Music Under New York.

It is a program where musicians audition and are permitted to play.

Musicians are found throughout the subway system: the platform, mezzanine or in the subway cars.


There is no process to independently play or sing in the subway. Artists will perform when it is most convenient to them.

Music Under New York holds an annual audition. Winners receive a banner to hang behind them during their performances. They are given optimal locations where the subways are busiest.

Once musicians are registered, they are part of the program as long as they abide the rules, regarding safety between commuters and the performers.

“Once you’re in, you’re in,” said Adrian Dimatteo, a performer recently admitted into Music Under New York.

Artists affiliated with Music Under New York can be seen in the mezzanine or the platforms in Time Square, Union Square and Grand Central stations.


Chloe Keen is a senior at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas.


Adrian Dimatteo

A new performer to Music Under New York, Adrian Dimatteo and his band, had their first performance in the Union Square station.

There is a bassist, a snare drummer, and the guitarist who is also the lead singer.

Dimatteo became involved with Music Under New York when he asked to perform with a saxophone quartet in the subways. His friend from the quartet, Eric Pollan, suggested he audition.

Adrian Dimatteo and his band had been admitted in the last three months.

He plays an Ibanez guitar for subway performances because it can take the “intense conditions,” said Dimatteo. He has another guitar that is played during nice events.

He has been playing since he was 11 and asked his dad for a guitar.

Outside of Music Under New York, Dimatteo plays parties and events as well as offers lessons.

The bassist, Ben Tiberio, has played the bass for 10 years but has always been involved with music. He started with the piano and clarinet.

Ben Tiberio is a long time friend of Dimatteo. They both are from upstate New York.

The snare drummer, Francois Alghisi, has played music for the past thirty years in the south of France. He emigrated from Italy.

Alghisi and Dimatteo became friends in a gym session and worked out ideas to put together the group for the subway.

For more information on Adrian Dimatteo visit




As commuters get off the subway at Union Square, sounds from a didgeridoo and screeches and hollers resonate from StreetMule, a performer part of Music Under New York.

As people attempted to take pictures during his performance, on a Saturday evening, he shied away.

StreetMule has been playing “sweaty” music for 27 years.

When asked what that meant, he said “the music picks you.”

Researchers suggest that the didgeridoo is the oldest instrument in history. The instrument is tracked back to Aboriginal roots in Australia.

In the subway, StreetMule wore shells on his shoes for a maraca-style sound. He sat on Cajon, a type of drum.


“Everything picks you, even the clothes you’re wearing” StreetMule said in regards to how he began playing music.

StreetMule, also known as Marc Mueller, has a band with his brother Paul Mueller and also has a solo act.

His band is a percussive group called Mecca Bodega. Their album is called City of Rocks.

Both albums include rhythmic beats from a series of different drums and cymbals.

He also has an album featuring himself titled Talkin’ True Da Tube. StreetMule writes all songs on the album and is dedicated to his mother.

When he was asked about how he started performing StreetMule said, “The music got into me”.


A representative of Music Under New York, Tom Higginbottom, has helped StreetMule create a fan base and draw a crowd from the subway stations.



Independent Musicians

Performers unaffiliated with Music Under New York can also be found in the subway cars, platforms and mezzanines.

An independent artist, Gonzalo Silva, is a singer-songwriter, accompanied with his bass.

A solo bass act is pretty rare, according to Silva.

He plays on the subways because he had no representation after moving to New York from Boston.

New York has a “big pond” and playing on the subway is a way to give him “more exposure,” said Gonzalo Silva.

Silva was taught the upright bass in high school, but he sings and plays a headless electric bass using self-taught techniques.

A variety of music is performed from steppers to blues bands to doo wop music.

Riders can find artists that play the Korean drums to the Cajun cello to the gypsy violin.

Sheva, a singer also not associated with Music Under New York, sings all types of music on the subway platform.

She is singing on the side while, getting her masters degree in child psychology.

Riders can hear Sheeva sing “Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding as subway cars pass.