Inna Faliks, Head of Piano at UCLA, shares a tale of summer woe with Slippedisc:
I was engaged this weekend to perform the Clara Schumann Piano Concerto at the Wintergreen Festival in the mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Immediately after my second performance, I was scheduled to leave for Europe from Dulles Airport, Washington DC.
My trip originated in Chicago. From the start, I became a victim to the Kafka-esque maze of monstrous ineptitude of American Airlines. It began with a flight cancellation. Then another one. When I finally made it to my destination after two days in the airport, missing the first rehearsal of this rarely played concerto, my suitcase (packed for a month in Europe, containing allergy medication, not to mention concert clothes) went to Reagan Airport, where I had no intention of being.
The real surrealism began when I tried to get the airline to deliver my property. Each call resulted in a 2-3 hour wait, and then the “luggage specialist” on the other line usually dropped the call halfway through any process which meant another two hour wait. There was no cellphone reception in the mountains; I spent a total of 14 hrs in 2.5 days, on calls (from my host’s house). I was told a series of lies about my bag being out for delivery when it never left Reagan Airport. I had to leave from Dulles in two days, and chances of getting AA to cooperate were nil.
The unexpectedly beautiful thing here was the way the Wintergreen Festival musicians, administration, artistic director and staff came together to help. This was humanity at its finest. The musicians donated clothes for me to wear. Festival Coordinator Karyn Galvin spent as many hours as me, perhaps more, on the phone, exhausted but persistent. My host, David Litchfield (many pianists, including Angela Hewitt, know him to be a devoted piano lover and friend to pianists) patiently stayed home for days, by the phone, to guard it for an AA call back, so that I could rehearse and practice. Erin Freeman, the brilliant conductor, not only led two great, adventurously programmed concerts but lent me one of her dresses (which the audiences had seen during her Mahler 4 performance the previous week). When we saw our efforts were to no avail, we knew we had to get the stuff ourselves. Sharan Leventhal, wonderful violinist at the festival, volunteered to drive me to DC at 5 am, to get back before the 2nd concert. Erin had a brilliant idea. She and her husband Drew Calhoon found a cab driver friend named Yossef, in DC. Karyn spent hours on hold, getting permission to release my hostage bag to Yossef. While I played my second performance of the beautiful concerto, Yossef drove to Reagan airport. There, he was told there was no bag. He proceeded to find the bag and met me at Dulles, right before I got on my flight to Geneva.
The festival’s motto this year is Expect The Unexpected. The kindness, ingenuity, patience and generosity of everyone I came across is unusual, unexpected, and truly commendable.
Erin Freeman, Inna Faliks
Beware at all times of flying AA.