Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cello passenger...

...or lute, or guitar. Stringed instruments are among the most vulnerable traveling companions and musicians who have consigned them to the aircraft's baggage compartment have lived to regret it. Despite the promises of protective cases, instruments like violins and violas are easily damaged in transit. Knowing this, cellists, violinists, and guitarists fight tooth and nail for the right to carry them on board, even when it means purchasing an expensive 2nd seat. "When I fly, I have to buy a ticket for my cello, often a first-class seat; one airline even threw a net around it once. It looked like a caged animal," describes American cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Many balk, however, at airlines insisting that instruments fly first class, since the rules are applied so inconsistently. When the instrument is mistreated by flight attendants or damaged by baggage handlers, musicians have complained - loudly. Ma relates, "I was once on a western airline with two other cellists, Nathaniel Rosen and his wife, Jennifer Langham. We got on the plane but they tried to bump our instruments. You should have heard Nick Rosen yell." He further describes the treatment of his 250-year-old instrument: ''A woman guard at the Houston airport wouldn't believe it fit through the X-ray machine so she opened it up and tapped the wood with her long fingernails. That's one of the few times I really lost my cool.'' Young British violinist Francesca Rijks campaigned for the right to carry her instrument into the cabin as hand luggage. Canadian guitarist Dave Carroll posted the retaliatory video "United Breaks Guitars" after a 2008 incident at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. For musicians trying to avoid travel pitfalls, Michael Bersin of the Department of Music at Central Missouri State University offers some useful hints, including having each carrier issue a frequent-flyer card for the instrument, as he has done for "Cello Dbags Bersin."

Images: Martha Reikow, principal cellist with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, boarding a flight to New York with her instrument in tow for a performance this Spring at Carnegie Hall.

1 comment:

  1. I've done this many times... people look at me like I am crazy! Nice post.


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