Just in: Maestro cancels Boston over US visa delays

Just in: Maestro cancels Boston over US visa delays


norman lebrecht

July 21, 2015

Five months ago, the Boston Symphony Orch had to rearrange a concert at short notice after Vladimir Jurowski withdrew with visa problems. The conductor blamed his management for the failure

Today, Oliver Knussen pulled out of a Gunther Schuller memorial concert in Tanglewood for similar reasons. We are told that the visa he applied for five months ago never came through and even a Senator’s intervention failed to move things on.

Has Boston been blacklisted by Homeland Security?

NPG x33549; Oliver Knussen by George Newson


  • Alvaro Gallegos says:

    Terrible. This is really awful.

  • Sergey says:

    Less conductors, less terrorists, obviously.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Norman, this article has a bit more of an explanation regarding the visa problem(s).


  • Joseph says:

    A major organ recitalist got turned away at the Canadian border, who was scheduled to play on the renown Methuen Recital Series this summer, also in Massachusetts. – It is happening a little too frequently.

  • CDH says:

    There may have been this technical glitch but US “homeland security” is desperately oppressive. Makes Nixon’s enemies list seem like a welcome mat.

  • AZ Cowboy says:

    What’s the problem? Just go to Mexico and sneak across the border like 500,000 others did last year. If anyone stops you (and that’s unlikely) they’ll let you go anyway.

    • Jaypee says:

      Gee, let me guess: you also think that Donald Trump would make a great president, right?

      • AZ Cowboy says:

        Here we go with the politics. No, I am not a Trump supporter. But I do live in a state that has been adversely affected by a huge illegal immigration problem. The problem has not been taken seriously by Republicans or Democrats. When someone does try to do something, like Sheriff Joe, he’s beaten up by the left, the press, and politicians from places that don’t have the issues we have here – the problems are very real, very expensive, and very frustrating… go Carly!

  • MacroV says:

    The article linked above may not be the story here. Any professional performer going to the US to perform must obtain a P-visa. This requires the artist/manager/presenter to submit a petition to the Department of Homeland Security, which has to approve it and then provide it to the applicant, who then goes to apply for a visa. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a time-consuming process, though if I’m not mistaken one can now pay about $1,000 to expedite the approval process.

    A performer needs a P visa even if, as I would imagine in the case of Mr. Knussen in this case, he wasn’t being paid to perform. At this point, nearly a month after the visa glitch was fixed, I’m a little surprised that he couldn’t get the visa printed if his petition was approved.

    It’s worth noting that, as a UK citizen, Mr. Knussen can travel to the US as a tourist without a visa. So conceivably he could have sat in the audience at the Schuller memorial, perhaps even spoken, just not conducted.

    • Scott Fields says:

      And also worth noting, the UK requires visas for US musicians who are playing concerts. Although US citizens can enter the UK without visas, if you are carrying a musical instrument and are a professional musician, you are likely to be turned away even if you have no concerts scheduled.

  • herrera says:

    People think musicians should have free access across borders, but foreign musicians take away jobs from Americans as much as plumbers, field hands, scientists….

    As American citizens or residents, Heifetz, Toscanini, Ormandy all understood this perfectly, and they sought to protect American musicians from the invasion of European musicians after WWII.

    See Menuhin explaining it (or rather, complaining about it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6BJCjWtoqg (at the 2’10” mark)

    • Dominique says:

      We have regularly plenty of American guest artists here in Switzerland, especially the singers. And they do not need the visas, they just come in and perform. Because this is not about taking the jobs, but is about the short-term guest appearance. People go home as soon as they are done with the performance. We call it over here, enriching the culture, and not taking someone’s job for few days or one week. Big difference, in my opinion.

      • CDH says:

        I guess you never heard of American exceptionalism. It’s the reason why so few Americans actually have passports, why so few knwo where anywhere else in the world is until they invade it and it becomes wallpaper on the nightly news, and why they know no history except their own. I went to a conference of very highly powerful Americans in New York City, one blisteringly hot August, and when they were told I had come down from Canada I was plied with questions such as had I come on snowshoes and did I miss moosemeat. Aside from a few harty-har-hars about Quebec breaking away (ancient history now…we hope…) these opinion-formers had exhausted their knowledge of their nearest neighbour and largest trading partner.

        This mentality would of course see any “foreigner” on a concert stage as a job-depriver, not as enrichment.

        • Glenn Hardy says:

          “…and why they know no history except their own.”

          I believe you’re actually giving us too much credit here.

    • NYMike says:

      As far as American symphonic jobs are concerned, the audition process still decides who gets the job. With soloists, there seems to be a fair cross-border exchange between Americans, Asians and Europeans. Your point seems not well-considered.

  • Aria says:

    Although I have no way of being 100% sure, and there are certainly plenty of problems with US immigration, I suspect this is a convenient excuse. Ollie is in exceptionally poor health (very tragic, though things do seem to be on the up and up for him) and I can’t imagine that he would be able to endure an international flight.

  • Doug says:

    Sounds like they should seriously consider crossing illegally into Texas and hopping a plane to their destination. If they get caught, simply say no habla Inglese and you’ll be whisked off to a five star hotel in a “sanctuary city.”

  • Tim says:

    Herrera – interesting… And so, as far as you are aware, US musicians don’t ever leave their native shores?

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    ==Ollie is in exceptionally poor health

    I saw him pottering around Aldeburgh. Didn’t seem to me like he wouldn’t be able to manage a long flight

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    == American citizens or residents, Heifetz, Toscanini, Ormandy all …sought to protect American musicians from the invasion of European musicians after WWII. –

    So Heifetz from Lithuania, Toscanini from Italy and Ormandy from Hungary, eh ?

  • Alia Khan says:

    The inevitable consequences of the extremely partisan work of Sir Apostle inexperienced of UK Migration Watch and also the ever additional ridiculous conceit of Tory ministers in response to the hysteria evoked by the concern of the united kingdom Isolationist (or is it “Idiots’ “) party.http://permitsandvisas.net