Subway Musician Profile: Michael Shulman

By: Stephen Tompkins

When you exit any of the trains at Union Square familiar sounds peremeate through the air. People shouting, trains blowing horns, people preaching the bible. And sometimes in the distance you can hear faint sounds that may make you believe the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is playing a gig upstairs. But you would be wrong, it is rather Michael Shulman, the animated 35-year-old electric violinist, clad with long curly black hair, and spandex.

Shulman hails from Moscow, Russia, but now lives in Inwood, a section of Upper Manhattan. He began performing music in subway stations as a means of income soon after moving here.

“When I came to America I didn’t have family or friends. I started running out of savings, and had to start from scratch,” Shulman said.



Shulman explained that he doesn’t have a regular job, and said that on a bad day he will make between $60 and $80. However, on a good day he said he can make up to a couple hundred dollars.

Money donated to Michael Shulman by subway patrons

Money donated to Michael Shulman by subway patrons

Shulman had to earn the right to play the subway station at Union Square.
“I had to audition at Music Under New York,” he said.

He finds that other subway musicians are very competitive, but he doesn’t allow that to intimidate him since his spot at Union Square assures him plenty viewers.

While he does play violin, Shulman explained that his roots are not in classical music.

“I studied violin for eight years in Russia, because my parents wanted me to. I wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “I love a lot of metal music: Metallica, Slayer, and Satherial,” he added.

For the future Shulman plans to keep performing in the subways.

“My next project will mix elements of kung-fu, and dancing. [I’m] still trying to perfect it,” he said.

Michael Shulman with his unique electrical violin

Michael Shulman with his unique electrical violin

For more information on Michael Shulman visit:

3 responses to “Subway Musician Profile: Michael Shulman

  1. I didn’t see him a Union Square, but I saw him at 34th street. He’s funny. The street performer I see at Union Square is the ‘Saw Lady’ – she’s funny, too. They ae both good.

  2. Stephen Tompkins

    Thank you, Michelle. I plan to profile the saw lady in the future. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!- Stephen

  3. Michael Shulman

    Hi Stephen!
    I am trying to reach you because I wanted to correct some of the info that you wrote about me.
    Please get back to me ASAP.
    Thank you!

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