What is Music Under New York?

By Justin Taylor

The Music Under New York (MUNY) program has been around since 1985 fostering over 350 musicians and groups. Musicians are spread out in several different locations across the five boroughs.  

Prohibition of musical performance in the New York City subway was common since the MTA’s early history. Some musicians still sang and played instruments in an effort to earn money.

Following a court order challenge by musician Roger Manning, in 1985, the ban on subway performance was declared unconstitutional and the MTA created MUNY.

Music Under New York artists is still guaranteed the same rights as other street performers in New York. However, association with MUNY provides  benefits to performers like priority scheduling in popular locations, access to commuter railroad terminals, and fewer problems with law enforcement.

Every year, auditions are held in Grand Central Terminal to add new performers to  MUNY. In an effort to represent people from all cultures, the MTA looks for musicians who reflect the diversity of New York City.

There is an online application that musicians submit early in the year and then those who are contacted will be asked to the live auditions in Grand Central.

They are judged by a panel of professionals from the music industry and each performance is five minutes and is based on “quality, variety, and appropriateness, for the mass transit environment,” according to the Music of New York website.

Alice Tan Ridley

Soul singer, Alice Tan Ridley was born in Georgia into a musically talented family of nine siblings, most of whom have become artists. She has been drawing large crowds since she was 3 years old.

After moving to New York in 1971 and raising a family,  Alice focused on her singing career and in 1992  she began singing full time in the New York City subway station as part of the Music Under New York program.

Ridley said that the program “was one of the greatest opportunities of her life… opening many doors.”

Ridley likes to perform at “all the hotspot stations in New York” like Union Square, 34th Street, and the 42nd Street-Times Square station. She tends to sing a lot of vocally challenging hits such as, “I Will Always Love You”,” I Will Survive”, “My Heart Will Go On”.

When asked what advice she would give to people trying to pursue music she said, “ Never give up even if there is a chance that you will never make it… never give up”.

The 64-year-old said that she will never stop performing. In five years she says that she will still be going to the 34th Street station and 42nd Street and Union Square with “her chair and microphone.”

Yaz Band

Yasuyuki Takagi was born in Osaka, Japan, and moved to New York in 1992 to pursue his music career. In 2002 his career began to take off. After years of playing small jazz clubs, he started his band, Yaz Band.

Takagi said that he didn’t want his “long and difficult” name in the title but still wanted to be represented at the same time.

During the audition process for Music Under New York, Yasuyuki said that “it didn’t feel like a competition” but more like “a celebration of musicians’ work”.

He said that at first, his parents were reluctant to “accept his dream” but over time they began to understand that he was dedicated to his music.

Yaz Band, a group of three to four musicians plays throwback R&B songs from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and Marvin Gaye.

When asked what his life would be like if he wasn’t a musician, he said he, “wouldn’t be anything” In the future, the musician wants to “tour the world and let people hear” his music.


Justin Tayl0r is a rising senior at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens.