NEW YORK — It’s a rite of spring: performers auditioning for the privilege of doing their thing in grubby, noisy subway stations.
Seventy showed up Tuesday at Grand Central Terminal, vying for permission to set up their underground acts for tips. They appeared before a jury of musicians and transit employees in the elegant Vanderbilt Hall above the train tracks.
This year’s motley musical crew, from countries around the world, will soon find out who won the right to be part of the Music Under New York program run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the nation’s biggest mass transit system.
“I always dreamed of arriving in New York City,” said Oliver Dagum, a Philippine-born U.S. Air Force sergeant stationed in New Jersey who left the military last week. “I always believed that there’s something between me and the city. It’s amazing. It’s grandiose. I feel uplifted.”
Dagum switched his military uniform for a woolen cap and guitar at Grand Central.
He sang a mellow “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5.
Three hundred performers entered the Music Under New York contest months ago to even be selected for Tuesday’s live, six-hour contest.
The jury picks about two dozen winners to be dispersed at subway spots around the city to rake in as much as hundreds of dollars a day. It’s illegal for unapproved artists to perform in the subway system.
Jacinta Clusellas, a Brooklyn resident from Buenos Aires with a guitar, wore giant blue wings to reflect a short story by the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario.
Clusellas attended Boston’s elite Berklee College of Music.
After all, some of New York’s finest musicians don’t appear at Carnegie Hall. They also practice and practice to get to a subway station.