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Musicians from across the world audition to perform in NYC subway

NEW YORK — Playing Madison Square Garden or Carnegie Hall is often the pinnacle of most artists’ careers but in the Big Apple there’s another coveted venue performers are all vying to play - the New York City subway.

The MTA held auditions Tuesday at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall where musicians performed their hearts out for a chance to win a spot on the agency’s “Music Under New York” roster.

Those who make it on the roster get to perform in highly desirable spots in the subway and transportation buildings.

From jazz trios to rock bands, there was no shortage of talent.

The 12-judge panel graded each performer on quality, musical variety and, of course – their universal appeal, which comes in handy for the millions of commuters who use mass transit daily.

“We have an existing roster that is diverse that reflect the cultures and the people of New York City,” Music Under Senior Director Lydia Bradshaw said.

Violinist Lee England Jr. is a veteran when it comes to performing in the subway. He’s been doing it for over a decade and tells PIX11 it has opened several doors.

“The actual dollar amount that I make is actually exponential,” he said. “If you think about it, if I do a gig and then get another gig from somebody seeing me street performing - I mean I’ve been all over the world.”

Having grown up in the Bronx, singer and guitarist Gio knows all about the perks of getting to play the subway.

“Being in that spotlight – being in a spot where people are going to see you and interact with you and you meet the fans, and all that kind of stuff is really cool,” he said. “The opportunity is awesome.”

With so much at stake, the competition is pretty intense. Of the 309 applicants, only 20 will be added to the program’s roster.

Performers will learn in the coming days if they made the cut, joining the ranks of more than 350 other musicians already entertaining straphangers underground.