New TSA rules: Play your instrument before boarding

New TSA rules: Play your instrument before boarding


norman lebrecht

July 07, 2014

Report from a Facebook friend:

If you happened to be in Terminal 1 at LAX just now and heard Sorcerer’s Apprentice wafting through the air, it was me serenading the TSA agents in hopes that my bassoon wouldn’t be confiscated. They insisted I prove it was a musical instrument. People were videotaping the whole kerfuffle.

Further comment:

This happened to me in Iowa at the aptly-abbreviated SUX airport, only I just had a mouthpiece.


music airport 2

photo: Reuters


  • Tuttiflutie says:

    There are plenty of reports of this happening in the flute world, too. Security agents at Madrid’s airport have also been known to ask travelers to play their instruments.

    One case in recent memory was someone traveling with an alto flute, which fascinated the agents to no end. Musician in question had to give quite a thorough demonstration. But we suspect it was more for enertainment than security reasons!

  • Su-a Lee says:

    Before 9/11, I used to travel regularly with my musical saw. I would invariably have to play it at the security check point. Always to very bemused but happy security staff!
    Sadly, I wouldn’t dream of taking it through security these days….

  • Jamie Phillips says:

    I had a similar incident at Berlin Schoenefeld recently, only it was just a conducting baton. Had to conduct an invisible orchestra to prove that I wasn’t carrying a lethal weapon…

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Same with my tenor voice… 😉

  • David Champouillon says:

    Funny…they never ask trumpeters?

    • Barbara Deur says:

      They are so afraid:-) While driving on the highway and buzzing, I am just waiting to be stopped because they think I’m smoking a joint. And I live in Colorado.

    • Jordan Hirsch says:

      I was asked once. Once.

  • And what is so wrong if they ask us to play our instruments. I did it in Frankfurt and it was awesome. Maybe this way we’ll win some audience

  • Peter Chun says:

    More evidence to convince people that we need more education in music! TSA people apparently don’t know what a bassoon is…

  • Vanessa says:

    Oh dear lord! I can’ only imagine having to soak the reads to perform for the TSA. And what happens in the event that they require some level of proficiency?

  • Robert King says:

    Some years back I was travelling with a famous soprano; the immigration officials insisted she prove she was indeed a professional singer – they couldn’t fathom that someone could actually earn a living singing. Eventually, rather than show them yet more paperwork (which didn’t seem much to impress them), and getting more testy by the moment, she let rip with a long top C that could have shattered windows at 50 metres. An entire customs hall fell to a stunned silence. She was swiftly admitted to the country.

  • Anne Prescott says:

    My sentiments/fears, exactly!