Topic: Latest on air travel for musicians...
Here's today's NY Times article on air travel for musicians, fyi.
The New York Times
August 15, 2006
Tighter Security Is Jeopardizing Orchestra Tours
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Air travel for classical musicians has never been
Those husky cellos need an extra ticket. Hey,
security! Watch that priceless Stradivarius.
Double-reed players? They have long given up on
carrying aboard those valuable knives and shaping
tools used to mold the cane that transforms their
breath into lyrical sounds.
And now, with new concerns about carry-on baggage in
the wake of Britain’s reported terrorist plot, it has
Strict regulations imposed last week forced the New
York-based Orchestra of St. Luke’s to cancel a
long-awaited tour of Britain over the weekend and sent
other ensembles with imminent trips, including the
Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony and
the Minnesota Orchestra, scrambling to cope with the
“I’m heartbroken,” Marianne C. Lockwood, the president
and executive director of the St. Luke’s orchestra,
said yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve been through 72
more anguished hours in my life.” The orchestra was to
have left last Thursday for concerts at the Edinburgh
International Festival and the BBC Proms at the Royal
Albert Hall in London, one of the major summer music
All travelers in Britain had to adapt to the ban on
carry-on items, which was relaxed yesterday to allow
one small carry-on. But not all travelers ply their
trade with highly personal artifacts made of
centuries-old wood, horsehair and precious metals that
many musicians are loath to put in the hold.
Its rules are of course in flux. The United States
Transportation Security Administration says on its Web
site that musical instruments are generally allowed in
the cabin in addition to a carry-on bag and a personal
item, but it leaves size requirements and permission
for the carry-on to the airlines. In addition, it
promises that security personnel will handle
That is of little comfort to musicians, particularly
string players, who suffer constant anxiety over the
threat of damage and fears that their instruments will
arbitrarily not be allowed in the cabin, even though
violins fit into most overhead bins.
The violin virtuoso and conductor Pinchas Zukerman
said security officials had even asked him to remove
the strings of his 1742 Guarneri del Gèsu. “I’ve had
unbelievable discussions at certain airports,” he said
by telephone while waiting at the Atlanta airport for
a flight with his wife, the cellist Amanda Forsyth.
“They want to stick their hands in my instruments, and
they say, ‘It’s my job.’ ”
Cellists have it the worst, Ms. Forsyth said. “We buy
the seat with a cello, and they treat us like
The new regulations have, for now, increased the
The Bolshoi opera and ballet, which have been
performing at the Royal Opera House in London, will
send their orchestra’s instruments back to Moscow by
ferry and truck at the end of the week if the
restrictions are not relaxed, said Faith Wilson, a
spokeswoman for the Bolshoi’s promoter at the house,
Victor Hochhauser Presents. The Bolshoi orchestra’s
chief conductor, Alexander Vedernikov, had been quoted
as saying that the musicians’ contract requires them
to keep their instruments with them.
“Clearly this is a very unusual situation,” Ms. Wilson
said. “I’m sure there are insurance issues, but I
don’t think anybody’s ever had to cope with the
security restrictions that we’re up against.”
The Minnesota Orchestra is due to leave on Sunday for
a European tour that also includes stops in Edinburgh
and at the Proms. Like many major orchestras, it packs
its instruments in specially designed and padded
The biggest ones, which hold harps and double basses,
are six and a half feet high and four feet wide. About
20 players in the 95-member ensemble like to take
their instruments or precious bows on board, but they
will stow them this time around, said a spokeswoman,
Gwen Pappas. The trunks are delivered straight to
concert halls, so the instruments will not be
immediately available for players who want to practice
at their hotels.
The Philadelphia Orchestra plays the Proms in early
September. Its trunks also have space for all the
members’ instruments, but it is working on backup
plans for about a dozen musicians who are going on to
other jobs or on vacation and not returning with the
orchestra, said a spokeswoman, Katherine Blodgett.
Those concerts, coming later, give the orchestras time
to prepare. And these are large, experienced touring
groups that own the crates.
Not so the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a highly regarded
ensemble that nevertheless tours infrequently and saw
the trip as a boost for its image. It spent two years
planning the trip and many months carefully polishing
the programs, which were to have been broadcast in the
The trip had special significance for the orchestra’s
principal conductor, Donald Runnicles, who is
Scottish, and for its president, Ms. Lockwood, who was
born in England.
Ms. Lockwood described three days of phone calls,
fueled by takeout Chinese food, to find alternatives.
The musicians had planned to carry their smaller
instruments by hand.
Charter planes were too expensive: about $300,000,
which would have doubled the cost of the tour. The
orchestra scoured larger orchestras from Philadelphia
to Boston to borrow trunks. All were in use. St.
Luke’s considered flying the musicians to Paris,
having them take a train to London and having the
instruments trucked in, but there would not have been
time to make a Tuesday rehearsal.
Then someone from Edinburgh called Saturday to offer
the loan of instruments.
In the end, none of the efforts mattered. British
Airways canceled the flight that day at 5 p.m.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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