Mayor Eric Adams today launched the competition for the first-ever Riders’ Choice Award, inviting New Yorkers to vote for their favorite addition to the MTA’s Music Under New York roster of subway performers. Representatives of the MTA, Partnership for New York City, Riders Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, and others joined the Mayor in Times Square to hear the three finalists and start the online voting process to select the “busker” that riders are most excited to encounter during their travels on the subway.
The Riders’ Choice Award is sponsored by the WE❤️NYC campaign. It shines a light on the artists who have won coveted spots in the MTA Music Under New York program that has been bringing joy to New Yorkers’ commute since 1985. This year, for the first time, transit riders have the opportunity to select their favorite of three musical acts that are part of the first new cohort of performers selected for the program since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
Shutterstock has created videos of each finalist posted at welovenyc.nyc/mta, where riders can cast their votes through July 26. The winner of the Riders’ Choice Award, to be announced on July 27, will receive a recording studio session from Atlantic Records.
The three Riders’ Choice finalists represent some of city’s most exciting and diverse musical talent. Each finalist performed at today’s launch event; Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and Atlantic recording artist ENISA and the MTA’s iconic “voice of the subway,” Charlie Pellett, joined the Mayor for the announcement. The launch event was organized with Times Square Alliance.
The Riders’ Choice finalists are:
- Afro Dominicano — A Latin fusion band that blends traditional Dominican folkloric roots music with Afro-Caribbean soul. They are known for their high-energy riffs and romantic balladry. Afro Dominicano’s profile video can be found here.
- Augie Bello — An instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, and songwriter known for his energetic live saxophone performances on the streets of the city. Augie Bello’s profile video can be found here.
- Brass Queens — An all-female brass band with a signature sound that sits at the intersection of the Big Apple and the Big Easy. They are known for their high-energy performances and their mission to empower women through music. Brass Queens’ profile video can be found here.
“Our subways keep New Yorkers moving, but they also keep our toes tapping thanks to great musicians who spread joy on the platform,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “‘Music Under New York’ supports more than 350 talented musicians on subway and train platforms across New York City, spreading joy from station to station. I want to thank the Partnership for New York City for constantly reminding us why ‘WE❤️NYC,’ and I look forward to seeing who our city picks for the first ever Riders’ Choice Award.”
Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathryn Wylde said “The talent of these performers is helping to draw New Yorkers back to the subways in ever greater numbers. We are delighted to celebrate the contributions of the intrepid musicians who show their love for their city by bringing joy to the transit system. We look forward to seeing who ultimately takes home the Riders’ Choice Award on July 27.”
“For more than 30 years MTA MUSIC has been a premier forum showcasing New York’s abundant, diverse talent while bringing a little magic every day to transit riders,” said MTA Arts & Design Director Sandra Bloodworth. “Music Under New York is delighted the public will soon be seeing new acts that have joined its roster and WE❤️NYC is recognizing MTA MUSIC artists by inviting riders to share their favorite performers. (Of course ALL the performers on the roster are the MTA’s favorites!)”
“New York’s subway is an iconic public space, with unique acoustics and accompaniment, where riders get introduced to musicians and musical genres from around the globe,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum. “As discerning New Yorkers, each of us is also a critic of everything we absorb in this city. We eagerly look forward to having our say in judging the first ever Music Under New York Riders’ Choice Award.”
“Subway performers are an essential part of what makes New York City special, and it’s an honor to be here to celebrate and uplift so many incredible artists,” said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Public transit moves us throughout the city and brings us together — and we will continue fighting until every New Yorker can travel quickly, easily, and safely on a bus, a train, or a bike.”
The Riders’ Choice Award is the latest project developed and facilitated by WE❤️NYC, a new campaign funded by the members of the Partnership for New York City to encourage New Yorkers to show their love for their city through civic action and community engagement.
MTA MUSIC has more than 350 performers showcasing classical strings, jazz ensembles, world music bands, folk, a cappella groups, singer-songwriters and more, featuring a wide range of instruments such as the Gambian kora, Korean drum, West Indian steel drums, Andean pipes, Cajun cello, Celtic and Baroque harps, guitars, violins, hammered dulcimers and musical saws. Performers are programmed at approximately 40 MTA MUSIC locations throughout the transit system, including subway stations and MTA commuter rail terminals and the Staten Island Ferry terminal. MTA Arts & Design presents more than 7,500 musical performances in the transit system every year. The musicians perform in designated locations with a Music Under New York banner that features their name and the Music Under New York logo.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA has selected a new cohort of 24 MTA MUSIC performers to play under its banner. The initial auditions were conducted by MTA Arts & Design, which provides visual and performing arts in the MTA network. Forty acts auditioned at Grand Central Madison on June 28, and 128 had applied to be considered for the opportunity. Normally an annual occurrence, the auditions were the first to be held since 2019, and the 33rd to be held since the MTA MUSIC program began in 1987. This is the first time the public has been invited to vote for their favorite MTA MUSIC performer.
About MTA Arts & Design
MTA Arts & Design encourages the use of public transportation by providing visual and performing arts in the New York metropolitan area. The Percent for Art program is one of the largest and most diverse collections of site-specific public art in the world, with more than 350 commissions by world-famous, mid-career and emerging artists. Arts & Design produces Posters, Digital Art, photographic Lightbox exhibitions, as well as live musical performances in stations through its Music Under New York (MTA MUSIC) program, and the Poetry in Motion program in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America. It serves the millions of people who rely upon MTA subways and commuter trains and strives to create meaningful connections between sites, neighborhoods, and people. To learn more, visit mta.info/art or follow on Twitter at @MTAArtsDesign.
WE❤️NYC is a cross-sector campaign to showcase the city’s strengths and mobilize New Yorkers to make sure this remains the greatest city in the world. The citywide campaign celebrates New Yorkers who are making a difference — the “Do-ers” — and features opportunities for civic engagement that everyone can join. No taxpayer dollars were used for this effort, and all New Yorkers are invited to get involved at welovenyc.nyc.
About Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. Founded in New York City, the label literally grew from a one-room operation into one of the world’s preeminent music companies. Atlantic has released a string of recordings that have had a profound impact on the course of modern music, its rich history including such musical icons as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, and Led Zeppelin. The Atlantic Records Group roster today includes many of the world’s most popular recording artists and soundtracks. Artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Sia, Coldplay, Charlie Puth, Janelle Monáe, Jack Harlow, Death Cab for Cutie, Matchbox Twenty, Lil Uzi Vert, Gucci Mane, Melanie Martinez, Rob Thomas, Skrillex, Roddy Ricch and many more, as well as soundtracks including The Greatest Showman, Hamilton, Fast and Furious, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Jagged Little Pill The Musical, the Spinning Gold soundtrack, and more.