In case you missed it, here's a story I wrote for Sunday's paper on the effect of an Obama administration elephant-ivory ban on traveling classical musicians: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/environment/2015/01/18/How-tiny-bits-of-ivory-snare-symphony-musicians-crossing-borders/stories/201501180065
I think one of the reasons this is a particularly nightmarish subject for musicians is that for years, long before the enforcement of this ban, they have experienced countless hassles at airports. Of course, everybody has experienced countless hassles at the airport, but having an instrument (of high financial and personal value) seems to heighten those issues. I've heard and read stories of musicians not being allowed to check large instruments or bring smaller, fragile ones on board, and cellists often purchase extra seats to bring their instruments into the cabin. Jim Rodgers, the Pittsburgh Symphony's principal contrabassoonist, told me that his reeds were almost thrown away at an airport because an inspector thought they could be used as weapons. (Woodwind players spend untold hours making their own reeds; losing them would have been disastrous, especially since he was on his way to an audition.) In late 2013, one musician's handmade bamboo flutes, which he spends two years crafting, were seized and possibly destroyed. It should not come as a surprise that in the experience of my sources, these issues seem to have heightened since 9/11.
Although legally-acquired instruments containing elephant ivory are technically allowed to cross the borders with a permit, some players may be wary given experiences they've had bringing their instruments through airports and onto planes.
"In any given airport, what it comes down to is that person you come face-to-face with," said Kristen Linfante, executive director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh. "You're in their hands. It's in their hands, and you don't want it in their hands."
"Until that absolute guarantee comes, I'm not taking any chances [with bringing ivory-containing bows out of the country], and I doubt any of my colleagues would, either."
Still, musicians have reason to cheer on the travel front: The U.S. Department of Transportation recently approved final rules on traveling with instruments, and the policy requires airlines to accommodate musical instruments in checked or carry-on luggage. More from the League of American Orchestras on that development:
December 31, 2014, Washington, D.C. -- Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued final regulations to improve travel by air with musical instruments. The rules become effective within 60 days of being published and require major airlines to update their policies and practices. This action comes nearly three years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act was signed into law, including a section mandating improved airline policies for musicians traveling with their instruments.
This major policy development is the result of intense and prolonged advocacy efforts by the music community, reinforced by dozens of Congressional leaders, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).
The new rules require airlines to adequately accommodate musical instruments in their formal policies for checked and carry-on baggage, and to ensure that front-line airline personnel consistently apply the policies. The next crucial step will be for the airlines to adopt new policies, make them publicly accessible, and thoroughly train airline personnel. The League continues to partner closely with the American Federation of Musicians, Chamber Music America, the Recording Academy, the Performing Arts Alliance, and other national music organizations in conversation with senior USDOT and aviation industry officials, advocating for swift implementation, and immediate relief for traveling musicians.
As the airlines take action to implement the new rules, the League will update our online hub of resources to explain the impact on travel with musical instruments.