The most depressing guide yet to flying with your bow

The most depressing guide yet to flying with your bow


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2014

Jennifer Loux has posted a really helpful guide to what every string player needs to know and do before flying with an instrument.

The guide is very clear, very long and, ultimately, very depressing that we need to go through these time-consuming contortions and bureaucratic manoeuvres before we can consider carrying a violin, viola or cello bow into or out of the USA.

And even that may not be enough. Last week, players in the Budapest Festival Orchestra did everything right and seven of them still got their bows seized by US Customs and held for three days.

How the hell has it come to this?

alban gerhardt bow


  • Anon says:

    Because we as individuals always expect “other people” to be the ones who have to do something to meet a new law we generally agreed should be passed.
    We’d all agree that elephants should be protected from hunting, so we’d all agree that the ivory trade should cease. Likewise whale hunting, tigers…
    So we ask the politicians to make a law, and we sit at home imagining that it will only have an impact on those nefarious folks who cart ivory from country to country.
    But wait! If you are a string player, that means you! So there are exemptions and ways that can be permitted to carry now illegal goods; but you have to jump through the hoops. The only alternative is the loopholes becomes so large as to allow illegal movement of goods instead.

    Remember, there is no such thing as “other people” different to the rest. “Other people” are the ones we think should be taxed more, should be forbidden from moving in to a country, should do this, shouldn’t be paid that. But “other people” are simply you and me, when it’s someone else looking in instead. “Other people” -are- us.

  • m2n2k says:

    According to anon, the “only alternative is the loopholes becomes so large as to allow illegal movement of goods instead”. If the law allows something, then it is not illegal. No, anon, there is a much better alternative: to write a more sensible law or to amend the existing one with reasonable exceptions.

    • Bob M says:

      So you believe getting politicians to make sense for the greater good is a “better alternative?” Good luck with that, my friend. Goooood luck.

      Anon’s only point was that a little foresight would serve you well when crusading for what you believe is right.

      I think a more logical course of action would be to show the bow to an approved antiques dealer or appraiser so they can issue papers that prove there is no ivory in the bow. Those papers can then in turn be presented to customs officials. It would work much like a passport proves who you are. An extra step, but it would lessen the possibility of what you see in the photo above.

      • m2n2k says:

        Yes, I do believe that such alternative would be preferred, but at the same time I agree that we all need lots of luck to make it a reality. Working to achieve desirable improvements and being realistic about preparing for worst case scenarios are not mutually exclusive options.