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Strung along! Like-named cellists create discord

Brooklyn Paper
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The Jacobsons: Cellist Erik Jacobson, who frequently busks at Brooklyn subway stations, is often mistaken for cellist Eric Jacobson, a more accomplished musician who has appeared on “Letterman” and at Carnegie Hall.

It’s a classical music caper!

Straphangers in Brooklyn subway stations continue to mistake a busking cellist with a pro who has played national stages, because the two musicians’ names are nearly identical — and the confusion creates problems beyond keeping commuters’ attention as trains rattle by, according to the underground maestro.

“This woman started screaming at me, ‘You’re not Eric Jacobsen,’” said below-ground busker Erik Robert Jacobson, who was accosted by his fellow cello player’s aunt. “I said, ‘I am Erik Jacobson!”

Jacobsen, a Windsor Terrace resident, has performed on “Late Night with David Letterman,” at Carnegie Hall, and with the Brooklyn Riders string quartet, and Jacobson — who hands out business cards while playing in stations that include Grand Army Plaza, the Atlantic Terminal, and Borough Hall as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Music Under New York program — said being mistaken for his de facto rival can cost him valuable gigs.

“People have contacted the other Eric Jacobsen a number of times thinking he was me, and vice versa,” Jacobson said.

The greatest insult dealt to the busker was when someone booked him for a performance and then canceled it upon realizing he was not the pro.

“Somebody hired me for a job that paid pretty well, and then the person said, ‘Oh, we want the other guy,’” Jacobson said.

The case of mistaken identity is so bad that Jacobson uses his full name to distinguish himself, but a Google search for “Erik Robert Jacobson” still lists Jacobsen’s website as the first result.

The more acclaimed Jacobsen may not lose jobs to his like-named busker, but he said fans of his fellow cellist send him messages confusing him for his underground counterpart.

“I do get e-mails sometimes, and I didn’t understand why until a friend of mine sent me a picture of Erik busking,” Jacobsen said. “I said, ‘It’s me — but it’s not me.’”

Jacobson, a member of Brooklyn’s underground music scene since 2011, said he would not advise a career in busking, but that he will not give up on his dream of playing for the New York Philharmonic or another orchestra.

“Don’t try this at home,” he said. “Getting into a major symphony orchestra is always the goal, but each passing year you wonder if it’s even a remote possibility.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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