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He's playing to save the music

By Tawanda Scott, CNN
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Man plays subway to save music genre
  • Dale Henderson gives cello concerts in New York subway stations
  • "Bach in the Subways is providing something meaningful" to people who hear it, he says
  • He doesn't ask for donations, gives out postcards about music
  • Henderson says he feels "the magic of music" when a group gathers to listen

New York (CNN) -- It is fear that drives Dale Henderson down into the subways, lugging his large case.

"I caught some fear from some other musicians that classical music is dying and in 100 years there will be no more classical music. I can't believe that's true. I mean, it scares me to my soul if it were true."

So he sits with his cello on a New York subway platform and plays Bach as a sort of CPR to keep his style of music alive.

Henderson has played cello since the age of 5, making his professional debut at age 13 with the Buffalo Philharmonic and earning a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

When he first moved to New York in 2008, he played for tip money that he needed to survive. He now supports himself by teaching cello and playing at recitals and solo performances.

Henderson stopped accepting tips in 2009 and began focusing on Bach Solo Cello Suites. His website says he chose them because their "power and beauty unfailingly inspire great appreciation, joy and deep emotion in those who hear them."

"From the first time I ever started Bach in the Subways, I had a sense of conviction of the value of what I'm doing," he said. "I think that Bach in the Subways is providing something meaningful to the people who hear it."

Some commuters immerse themselves in the harmonic sounds as they pull out their cameras to record the experience, and others just stare, as if they are captivated by the ambience.

Postcards propped on his silver music stand read, "I do not take donations."

"I don't collect donations while I play, because on the most simple level, it pollutes the experience for myself and everyone listening," he said.

"I think the most obvious answer to the question why am I doing this without collecting money on my own time is that I love it," he said. "The interest is growing, so I think it's working."

Some listeners take a postcard from the music stand to learn more about Henderson and his music.

"The most memorable, satisfying moments happen when there's a group of people listening to me and connecting with the music, and it creates this other space -- this other realm that we can all come together in. And that's an incredible thing ... that's the magic of music."