Psst - wanna hear Gil Shaham for free? In one of the flash performances that are becoming increasingly common these days, NPR and Classical WETA are teaming up to present the violinist in a free, “impromptu,” 15-minute flash concert today at 3 pm at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Unlike some flash events that have had artists singing in train stations and grocery stores (like the one WNO’s young artists did last year; see below), this one is supposed to have a few actual seats, though the hoi polloi will be asked simply to take their places standing around the sides. You get what you pay for, plus Gil Shaham, who, after all, is pretty darn good. (The last comparable “flash concert” with a major violinist in this area was the time Josh Bell played to a crowd of busy and oblivious commuters in the Washington Metro.) Shaham will, of course, be playing for a ticketed audience tonight at the Kennedy Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Does this kind of thing build new audiences? I still maintain that the biggest audience for a lot of these new initiatives (I’m looking at you, Met HD Broadcasts) is the existing audience, who is happy to have new ways of listening to the art they love. But hey, if some classical newbie hears Shaham and decides to go buy a CD or concert ticket, it’s a great thing. I just wonder if the payoff is substantial enough to make this the most efficient use of everyone’s efforts.

Above: WNO’s young artists sang the Brindisi from “La Traviata” last year in Whole Foods to a bemused-looking crowd of shoppers.