Eastman Dean explains why he dropped Korean students from China tour

Eastman Dean explains why he dropped Korean students from China tour


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2019

We have been sent a pair of internal messages by the Dean of Eastman, explaining why he decided to go ahead with an orchestral tour of China despite a ban on including South Korean students. This is Jamal Rossi’s decision, and he’s standing by it.

Dear Members of the Eastman Community,

I am writing to you regarding the tour of the Eastman Philharmonia to China.  Earlier this week, I sent messages to the student members of the Philharmonia and the Eastman faculty regarding my decision to continue the upcoming tour, following news that three South Korean members of the Philharmonia would not be able to obtain required work visas in China because of a diplomatic matter between those two countries.  Instead of paraphrasing that information, I believe it is very important for all members of our community—students, staff, faculty, alumni, and our Eastman community at-large—to understand the various factors that were considered and the efforts that were made prior to making this decision.  To that end, I have attached both messages so you will know how and why the decision was reached to continue the tour.

Since information about this decision was made public, I have read some inaccurate comments that require clarification:
 I solicited and weighed carefully the input from the students as advisory to my decision.
While each member of the Philharmonia was invited to share their thoughts on whether
to continue or cancel the tour, this was not a decision made by student vote.
 The students from South Korea were not asked to make a decision on behalf of others.  I
met with the students on two separate occasions to try to fully understand their
thoughts and feelings prior to reaching a decision.
 This decision was not made under the influence of profit, of which there is none.
 While this decision was made in consultation with others, the decision was mine.

This was a difficult decision because there exist valid positive and negative elements related to
cancelling or proceeding with the tour.  While I appreciate that opinions may vary about this
decision, I desire for our Eastman community to understand the complexity of the matter
before drawing each person’s own conclusion.  To assist with this, I encourage you to read the
following messages to the faculty and the Philharmonia students.  There is no question that this
is a challenging situation, but I am heartened in the knowledge that all of us are committed to
doing our very best in support of our students and our school.  For that, I extend my deep

Sincerely yours,
Jamal Rossi

Message to faculty:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to update you about a development related to the upcoming Philharmonia Tour to
China.  In late September, our tour partners in China informed us that they could not obtain
visa applications for three South Korean students in the orchestra.  This was related to a 2016
decision by the US to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea, and China responded by
blocking South Korean artists from performing in China.

The options with which I have been grappling since that time have been:

1. Proceed without the three South Korean students
This poses a tremendous ethical dilemma.  Discrimination in any form and for any
reason is abhorrent to me, personally.  Traveling without our South Korean students
could lead to unrest among Eastman students and our Eastman community, the
university community, and potentially a larger Korean community.  It would also mean a
change in the orchestra personnel, identifying three other students to perform instead
of our South Korean students.

2. Cancel the Tour
This would be tremendously unfortunate to 80+ students who have been highly
motivated by this opportunity.  We know that families have altered holiday plans and
have already made travel arrangements to enable their students to participate on this
trip.  Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within
China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit, perform, and tour for our
faculty and other ensembles.

3. Find a way for the three South Korean students to perform with the ensemble.
Toward this end, we have spent the past two weeks seeking assistance from our tour
partners, our congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., as well as through the
Chinese Consulate in NYC.  Ultimately and unfortunately, these efforts have proved to
be unsuccessful.

Throughout this time, I have been consulting with the Provost, the Vice-Provost for Global
Engagement, UR’s Office of Government Relations, as well the President’s office.  I have also
sought input from other deans and orchestras to see if they have encountered the same issue
and to learn from them.  John Hain and I also met with the students from South Korea twice, in
addition to having individual conversations.

On Friday, I met with the Philharmonia to explain the situation and to hear their feedback at
that time.  I encouraged them to share their thoughts with me over the weekend.

Time has been of the essence with a hard deadline of this morning to make a final decision to
proceed or not.  This morning, I communicated my decision to proceed with the tour to the
members of the Philharmonia.

As I wrote to the students, I can understand and appreciate that some of you may agree with
my decision while others may not.  I am certainly available and willing to speak with anyone
who wishes to do so.  In the meantime, I hope that you can appreciate the challenge this
scenario created in that the final choices were between two potentially negative outcomes.  I
believe this decision is ultimately in Eastman’s best interest, and I truly appreciate your support
of the students and of this important international initiative.

Sincerely yours,



  • LunchtimeOBoulez says:

    What a worm this man is.

    • Kay Langford says:

      These days in the United States we’re seeing a lot of egotistical and self-centered leadership. This is another example of it. This kind of action can only hurt the reputation and credibility of the Eastman organization.
      It’s true a worm is low, but I think a snake is a better description of what this man is.

    • Joseph Olefirowicz says:

      Actually, he isn’t. He is a very thoughtful musician who has worked in college administrative positions in music schools for decades. This isn’t the first country to deny visas to a small contingent of an ensemble, and the ensemble tries to preserve the ensemble’s appearance. College is a rats nest of rules and red tape. In this case, a foreign appearance is muddied with political grandstanding. If someone can reasonable say why the entire ensemble should suffer in this case, please make your case. But throwing mud as a very respected administrator doesn’t solve the political issue they are caught in. The Chinese government would hardly change its stance if Eastman canceled. Rossi is clearly making a decision for the best situation for the majority of the students under his charge.

      • Anon says:

        How can you work in a college administrative position and also be a musician? This man is a political pen pusher and doesn’t earn his salary from playing the notes, day in, day out. Shameful.

        • Bill says:

          Dean Rossi is a fine performing musician. An accomplished classical saxophonist.

          • Anon says:

            Yes. But it’s not exactly an orchestral job! And he has the audacity to lecture students in this? Which shall not doubt be their way of earning their living. Hasn’t a clue, but it’s so often like this in music colleges of higher education – academics masquerading as musicians!

      • David says:

        Why Joeph you are so right, and with historical precedence like the Nuremberg laws and Jim Crow laws that also favored the rights of the majority, you have history on your side!

      • Bill says:

        I have known Jamal for many years. While this decision can be argued, his integrity and leadership is exemplary. He is also a brilliant musician.

      • John says:

        No red tape here. After the travel agency informed Rossi that the South Korean students couldn’t attend (something the agency should have taken care of much sooner – even if you don’t know what students are in the orchestra before auditions, you should be aware of issues like this well in advance), Rossi wrote the emails about not cancelling the trip to try and save potential future recruiting and faculty performing visits. It’s all about future $$$ to him. If you really need to tour Asia that bad, go to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia.

    • Nick2 says:

      I entirely disagree. He lays out the arguments for and against quite succinctly. The shaping of US foreign policy is nothing to do with him, just as the shaping of China’s policy towards visitors has nothing to do specifically with the Korean students.

      Those who are quick to judge seem to forget that the USA under Trump has similar bans covering citizens from seven countries including musicians.

      • LunchtimeOBoulez says:

        Judging others by the standards of the USA is your first mistake.

        He’s a worm, and a gutless, filthy worm too.

        • AnnaT says:

          You need to dial down your rhetoric, and quickly. “Gutless filthy worm” is a shockingly dehumanizing thing to call someone, especially someone whose offense is an administrative decision you disagree with.

      • Robert Freeman says:

        I agree completely with Nick2 on Jamal Rossi’s very difficult decision. A more complicated question: should Juilliard open a branch in China?

        The primary task of a music dean is not to be a world class artist himself but to be a serious musician who has the judgment to appoint without exception only the most capable artists and scholars to the faculty. In my judgment Rossi excels in all of those domains.

        • K says:

          Hmm….”The primary task of a music dean is not to be a world class artist himself…” Sounds like you’re describing a former administrator at ESM. I guess if this person had had the opportunity he/she would have sold out the Koreans also, and betrayed our national values at the same time. Or am I wrong?

  • PHF says:

    I do not see any ethical dilemma there. They cannot control world diplomacy, It is not purely discrimination, because there is reciprocity in the conflict.

    • John says:

      You don’t see the ethical dilemma about students working their butt off to get into a school like Eastman and then when their one chance at a big international tour comes up, the school schedules it to a country where not all of it’s students can’t participate?

  • PaulD says:

    “This decision was not made under the influence of profit,” and “Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit… .”

    Is it one or the other?

    • Follow The Money says:

      Yeppers. You nailed it, in a nutshell.

      • John Porter says:

        These schools are dependent on Chinese money and string/piano/voice students. Even though they probably have a fair amount of Korean students, they are willing to throw the Koreans under the bus to placate the Chinese government. It was a simple business equation. These schools are businesses, not some sort of ethereal temple. They made the decision that was best for their business interests in the short term. Long term, who knows?

  • Lance Hulme says:

    This is not the Eastman I attended.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    They should have added the following sentence in the release:

    “We continue to welcome students from China who are willing to pay full tuition to attend the Eastman School of Music help us meet our annual budget targets.”

  • Pro says:

    My prediction is that this man will not be the Dean at Eastman in two weeks.

    • LunchtimeOBoulez says:

      My prediction is that he’ll be given a free upgrade to 1st-Class, a free upgrade to an Executive Suite, and an invitation to adjudicate at Chinese competitions (`1st-class airfares and room upgrades, ‘spouse program’) for several years to come. And an envelope, handed to him discreetly. In return, Eastman will lower the bar for Chinese students. For the right envelope, Eastman may even open a faculty for Chinese traditional instruments. (This is the standard hospitality program, even for US college marching bands visiting Europe. Or did you think they do those tours for the love of music?)

      But oh no, it’s not for ‘profit’. And it’s all invisible, and none of it declared to the IRS.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is likely more about donors than anything else. It gives ESM a chance to raise money from Chinese in China. They would probably argue that this is what it takes to maintain financial aid packages. Where do you draw the line with this thinking though? Clearly, MIT couldn’t draw that line when it sucked up to Jeffrey Epstein. There’s never enough money for thinking like this. It is all about money.

  • John says:

    Horrible decision by Dean Rossi to let the trip proceed while South Korean students are barred from participating.

    1. The orchestra members should have never been put in a position to advocate one way or another. While Rossi says it was not a “vote” in the sense that the students decided the outcome, you’re putting students in the position of having to make a call on leaving their classmates behind or not.
    1a. Shame on those students who wanted to leave their classmates behind

    2. Asking the South Korean students either publicly or privately whether their classmates should go on the trip or not again only makes the situation worse. You’re still putting students in a decision they should not have to make. If they would have said “no,” there is no way that info does not get back to the rest of the orchestra and faculty. If the trip would be cancelled for any reason after that point, the South Korean students would be unfairly blamed.

    3. You say the decision was not made with “profit” in mind, but yet in your email to faculty you state that, “Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit, perform, and tour for our
    faculty and other ensembles.” Every music school competes for enrollment and it sure sounds like you’re worried about the potential of losing potential Chinese students (aka tuition dollars) down the line. Is it really that important to have China as a touring option if they are going to disbar actual students from participating? Aren’t actual, current students more important than “potential opportunities”? Even if Eastman’s reputation is negatively affected in China, is the school’s situation that destitute that it will collapse without this tour?

    4. Professional Orchestras tour China with South Korean musicians. There’s no reference as to why Eastman is not allowed.

    You had the opportunity to show a sense of unity and that everyone at the Eastman School of Music is equally important. Instead you placed a hypothetical future situation ahead of actual tuition-paying students.

  • Guest says:

    The students are South Koreans not Americans. It’s not “our” problem. It’s between South Korea an China.

    • Guest2 says:

      It is not ‘our’ problem… But they are our ally… and our THAAD missile defense system (for defense against North Korea, not China) is deployed in South Korea… and this is the crux of the issue (apparently).

      • Guest 3 says:

        Lissunup – they attend school in the US, thats it. They are South Koreans. They can’t get visas, not the problem of the US. Stopped with the irrelevant THAAD crap.

    • anonymous says:

      Plenty of Chinese students attend schools in South Korea. In fact, South Korea is dependent upon students from China, as they have had a major birthrate decline for years.

    • Daniel says:

      Wait, are you serious?

      The only reason China is banning South Koreans is because the US compelled SK to put the THAAD missile defense system in the country against China’s wishes.

      Now, it isn’t the end of the world for China to dislike that action, but to have Americans force their hand, then look the other way when the chickens come to roost?
      South Korea complied with the Americans to be dealt this hand, and you’re trying to act like, as Americans, this isn’t “your” problem?

      This *began* as an American problem. This is just weaseling out of consequences

    • Thad McMissile says:

      You are pretty ignorant. It is “our” problem because we created it. The US strong armed Korea to host THAAD then Obama and Trump looked the other way when China retaliated… wait for it.. against KOREA.

  • Pauker says:

    One view of one topic– if you are concerned with losing future Chinese students, my goodness, go after South Korean students!..Many of the greatest international performing artists are SOUTH KOREAN !!!!!!!! The place is LOADED with talent…. I need not name them, but one could start with the Chung siblings. :>)) One of whom, if I am not mistaken, just finished conducting two concerts in… Beijing!

  • Cubs Fan says:

    This guy is in a no-win situation. Whatever his decision, he’s screwed. Blame rests on one entity: the Chinese government. I played in an orchestra that toured China twice, and we faced a dilemma with no happy solution – to play or not play The Stars and Stripes Forever. We didn’t play it to end the concert in Tibet. The commies won.

  • MendelBRO says:

    *In my opinion* China seems to be missing a key point. Eastman is an American institution, and though the orchestra is made up of individuals, it performs as one unit. Therefore it is an American group performing in China. Ideally I would cancel the trip in this situation, but I guess Eastman is concerned more with its reputation with China? I personally think it’s Un-American to yield to such tactics, but the arts are in a weird political sphere anyways. Sorry to the Korean students at the Eastman orchestra 🙁

  • Illio says:

    Shameful on the part of Eastman. Either they all go or they don’t go. It’s as simple as that. So much for doing the right thing.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      A few weeks ago China denied a visa to a German member of parliament. As a result, the entire delegation stayed home and cancelled the trip. I realize that a political body is not an orchestra, but if you kowtow to dictators, it only encourages them to continue with their successful power games.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    On principle I disagree with the decision of the Dean, but I also do realize the quandary he was put in; he is damned, whether he does or doesn’t.
    Now I don’t know what instruments the three South Koreans play, but wouldn’t a solution be to go on with the tour WITHOUT replacing them with other musicians (in the hope that one of them is the solo oboe)? If it would be audible in the music, so much the better.
    That would send the message to the Chinese all right, at the same time of which it wouldn’t put the replacements in a horrible loyalty position. Personally I cannot see, how anyone would accept to go as a replacement under these conditions.

    • LunchtimeOBoulez says:

      His quandary is that he was born without a SPINE

    • K says:

      There is no damned if you do or don’t. Rossi, representing the administration, caved and did a great disservice to the school, or values as a nation and to the Korean students. A more courageous stance would have been to tell the Chinese, either accept the ensemble as it is, or we politely decline. This is not a good day for the arts in America.

  • Peter says:

    He consulted those involved. He looked for alternatives. He chose the lesser of two evils. He explained why.

    Which of us would have come up with a better way to handle it ?

    • Guest2 says:

      He got the members to vote in something that wouldn’t make a difference (apparently).

      He basically divided the orchestra up.

    • Ron W. says:

      Yes, the better way would be NOT to go. Not an evil.

    • K says:

      There is no second “evil” here. The tour to China should have been canceled and an alternative destination chosen. This will ultimately betray the students and the legacy of ESM. I’m an alum.

  • Symphony musician says:

    It’s very easy to take the moral high ground when you’re not the one who has to make the decision. It sounds like the man carefully and conscientiously weighed up all the factors in this messy and very grey area. How can any of us know what we’d really end up deciding if we found ourselves in his situation.

  • Paganini says:

    It’s a no-win situation. It’s either profit at the expense of ethics, or vice versa. But don’t all companies operate in China that way?
    Hindsight is 20/20, but Eastman should have researched this trip before they before they committed. They could have planned around the Korean ban.

    • Bill says:

      The assumption here, of course, is that you will not be arbitrarily and capriciously denied visas for some of your players after you’ve made your decision. You’d also be mistaken to think that the US government doesn’t engage in similar shenanigans.

      And how would you “plan around the Korean ban” here, even if you know about it? Tell the Korean students they weren’t welcome in the orchestra this year? Go somewhere else? Going to a different country isn’t planning around the ban.

  • John H. Haley says:

    All that gab explains nothing. What a complete void of moral competence is on display here. The Eastman Board should fire Rossi immediately if the school is to retain any sense of integrity, which would be a far greater tool for recruitment than the disgraceful behavior going on here.

  • Allen says:

    He wrote: “this was not a decision made by student vote.
     The students from South Korea were not asked to make a decision on behalf of others. I
    met with the students on two separate occasions to try to fully understand their
    thoughts and feelings prior to reaching a decision.”

    So, he listened to them but did not allow their wishes or opinions to affect the decision?

    “Discrimination in any form and for any
    reason is abhorrent to me, personally.” Apparently, not.

    “Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit, perform, and tour for our faculty and other ensembles.” No, canceling would show China and the rest of the world that Eastman has a backbone and will not submit to the oppressive Communist regime of China. That statement only shows that not only is profit the motivation here but that Eastman is so desperate to take in Chinese students that they will allow them to control their agenda.

    Cancel the tour, organize a tour instead to anywhere else in a free country in Asia, and then fire this spineless useful idiot.

  • A musician says:

    Another example of history calling upon someone to put principle over profit, and they blinked. Pathetic.

  • Allen says:

    In the words of a prominent politician (with whom I rarely agree except regarding this): “The United States seeks engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world, but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual respect and the international rules of commerce,” Mr. Pence said. “But, so far, it appears the Chinese Communist Party continues to resist a true opening or a convergence with global norms.”

    “The real question is to what degree American corporations should be asked, or compelled, to sacrifice the American value of free markets to the American value of free speech,” he added. “Combating China’s worldwide promotion of illiberalism will not be cost-free.”

    “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the N.B.A.” … [OR NOW THE EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC] … “is acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.” [ ! ]

  • Heidi says:

    This was the wrong decision and I will no longer donate to my school. I am ashamed by their actions. This guy needs to step down.

  • Patrick says:

    Wrong decision, Dean. You sold out to the Chinese. Wimp.

  • Philip Conlon says:

    At least they didn’t expel them from the orchestra. In contrast, six musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were denied entry to the USA in 1951, not, as in this case, because of a diplomatic dispute between two countries, but because the USA viewed them as so dangerous to their country that their presence in Detroit for a day making music could have led to the collapse of civilization. The Toronto Symphony, ever eager to please their imperial masters, whether of the London or Washington variety, demonstrated their solidarity by firing the musicians. One of them, Abraham Mannheim, who played bass, found refuge, and a job, in The People’s Republic of China.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Should we be surprised that apparently none of the other student musicians is standing with their colleagues and refusing to make the trip?

    • John says:

      Local Rochester news reported that the student orchestra “vote” was two to one, so at least one third of the orchestra wants to stand by their classmates.

  • Count Pete says:

    If the Chinese had forbidden African-American, Jewish, gay, or female members of the orchestra from coming on the tour, would there be any question about the right response? I see little difference in banning students based on their citizenship.

  • SVM says:

    A lot of people in this thread are setting unrealistic standards of solidarity. In just about any country in ‘the West’, institutions, ensembles, employers, and promoters engaging musicians are legally required to discriminate on the basis of citizenship, especially when it comes to freelance engagements and/or ‘rank-and-file’ appointments.

    In the UK, the right of conservatoire students to undertake paid work as musicians varies according to citizenship and visa status — essentially, most nationalities are unable to do so, with some very limited exceptions for ‘work placements’ that are demonstrably indispensable to the degree programme. But there is a lot more to starting a music career than following a degree programme. As for music jobs in the UK, I have lost count of the number of times I have read something to the effect of “Unfortunately, this vacancy is not eligible for a certificate of sponsorship under Tier 2, so only those already entitled to work in the UK are eligible.” (Tier 2 is the principal category of employment visa).

    Having said all that, I think Rossi’s message might have said something such as: “If any student no longer wishes to participate in the tour, he/she is entitled to withdraw at any time prior to the tour’s departure without prejudice to his/her eligibility for other opportunities at Eastman.”.

    • John says:

      The USA has rules about international students on visas obtaining paid work while they are in school. This is a completely different situation.

      The students are already studying in the USA and participating in a school ensemble. This is not a paid, professional group.

      • SVM says:

        Different situation but the same issue. Orchestras and ensembles are often prevented from hiring/engaging a player due to his/her nationality. Do they disband or refuse to perform? No; they just keep looking until they find a player who is entitled to undertake the employment/engagement legally. They may, additionally, grumble about the state of affairs, and lobby elected representatives to change the law.

        The main difference, arguably, is between having to drop a player on home soil and having to drop a player on tour. If the home country were a shining example of justice and reasonableness in the devising and implementation of right-to-work policies, one could argue that there is a difference. But, speaking as a British citizen, I am often ashamed of the manner in which my government treats foreign nationals trying to obtain the visas/entitlements to work in the UK legally.

        Returning to the issue at hand, is China any worse than the USA when it comes to granting or refusing visas? To be honest, I do not know enough about these two countries to arrive at an informed opinion. But there must surely be non-USA nationals admitted to study or work at Eastman but unable to take-up their places due to being declined a visa… should Eastman suspend operations out of solidarity with these people?

  • David says:

    A disgrace to the legacy of so many courageous artists of integrity who have made a stand for human rights and against oppression. Incredibly racist to go on with this tour

  • Disappointed says:

    “I solicited and weighed carefully the input from the students as advisory to my decision. While each member of the Philharmonia was invited to share their thoughts on whether to continue or cancel the tour, this was not a decision made by student vote.”

    Student input should never have been sought. This tour was a “program” of the Eastman School of Music, and not of any individual student. Student opinion should have had no bearing on the decision; soliciting student opinion was a fishing expedition to find support for whatever decision this administrator wanted to make.

    “The students from South Korea were not asked to make a decision on behalf of others. I met with the students on two separate occasions to try to fully understand their thoughts and feelings prior to reaching a decision.”

    Again, this tour was a “program” of the Eastman School of Music, and not of any individual student. Student opinion should have had no bearing on the decision; soliciting such opinion was, again, a fishing expedition to find support for whatever decision this administrator wanted to make. After all, what exactly would any of these three students be expected to say? “Please cancel my classmates’ trip because of me?” I don’t think so.

    “This decision was not made under the influence of profit, of which there is none.”

    Ticket sales? Future tuition from future Chinese students, some of which would inevitably be from the government of China who sought to exclude these three Korean students?

    “This poses a tremendous ethical dilemma. Discrimination in any form and for any reason is abhorrent to me, personally. Traveling without our South Korean students could lead to unrest among Eastman students and our Eastman community, the university community, and potentially a larger Korean community.”

    And, as you are finding, unrest among the entire American music community, if not the worldwide community of musicians…all of whom might ask themselves, “if I go to Eastman, would there ever be a situation in which the school might allow me to be excluded? Maybe, just to be safe, I’ll accept that offer from [fill in the blank with other American music school].”

    “Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit, perform, and tour for our faculty and other ensembles.”

    Not cancelling is certainly having a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation, because it puts so-called musical or “educational” goals above those of human rights and decency. Speaking as a graduate of several music schools similar to Eastman, I can tell you that a tour – anywhere – is not a deal-breaker educationally to any student of music; no student “needs” a tour…maybe the school needs one, but student “need” is not present here. As for faculty concert engagements and recruiting, let China find other performers…Eastman’s faculty has well over a hundred other countries from which to choose and, given the geopolitical developments of the past three years, it might just as well be prudent to develop ties with institutions in other countries.

    Furthermore, if cancelling would have been wrong, were any efforts made to divert the tour to another classical music loving country…say, Korea?…Japan?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me it could have been sold to any airlines involved as a great PR move to “support” re-routing a tour in defense of human rights and as a repudiation of putting political goals ahead of the goals of humane exchange of intellectual and artistic ideas and ideals.

    Even if it cost Eastman directly to re-route a tour, Eastman would have been universally hailed as a “hero”; not what it has become. It would have been a statement that “we don’t leave our colleagues at home” because of the political whims of authoritarian governments…”we don’t leave our colleagues behind, we are a GROUP and we take care of our own, we stick together.”

    This is a sad and entirely unnecessary decision that does not say “Eastman is Great” – what it does say is “here’s another example of an American institution going abroad in search of the almighty dollar, and throwing away any moral or ethical superiority over the authoritarian governments America typically berates, in order to find those almighty dollars.”

    Another American institution that does not stand by its allies, or the citizens of its allies, when push comes to shove it’s every man for himself…so why should American allies, or their individual citizens, put any faith in the word of the American government, any American institution, or indeed, any American?

  • Anonymous says:

    What a liar, Eastman is developing plans with the head of administration of Zhuzhou to build an Eastman school in China. Sounds VERY profitable to me.

  • Larry W says:

    The decision not to cancel the tour in support of these students will have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation, and potentially limit opportunities to recruit South Korean and American students.

  • anon says:

    Truly naive decision. Authoritative regime gets US hard currency. Eastman retains hopes to “recruit, perform, and tour for our faculty and other ensembles” due to the sacrifice of current tuition-paying students.

    We are long past the days of Isaac Stern’s Mao to Mozart trip. Mr Rossi do you know anything of China under Xi? Do the students know they won’t be able to access G-mail, Google, etc, etc while on this Eastman promotional tour? Yet, this is the autocratic China in which Eastman worries over “a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation”.

    Why not really take a stand for American values and still visit countries ripe for Eastman recruiting? Orchestra members will be welcome in HONG KONG, TAIWAN, Singapore, South Korea.

    • Bill says:

      “Authoritarian [sic] regime gets hard currency”

      The People’s Republic of China is the single largest owner of US government debt, having purchased just over $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) of the roughly $4 trillion owned by foreign governments. They wouldn’t even notice the puny amount spent for a single orchestra tour.

  • sam says:

    The Dean completely misses the point. The issue not whether to go to China is if it bans South Koreans, the issue is whether to go to China at all.

    This is not the China of Nixon and Mao, when opening up China was a moral necessity. Today’s China is the China of colonizing Australia, bullying Canada, stripping Africa, busloading through the capitals of Europe shouting in Mandarin. The moral necessity is long gone, the monetary necessity is the sole motivation.

    Don’t even pretend there are lofty pros and cons to consider.

    The Chinese market is worth more than 2 South Koreans? Pshaw, let’s be frank, the Chinese market is worth far more than the entire of South Korea and North Korea combined. That is the ultimate calculation.

    • double standards says:

      Today’s USA is the USA of colonising the Middle East, bullying Venezuela, stripping Ukraine, busloading through the capitals of Europe shouting in American English (to the extent that many shops and market stalls in these capitals no longer have any staff speaking the official language of the country concerned). One could go on…

      • srs? says:

        Are you trying to imply he was arguing America was above criticism? Or are you dense enough to think that a country is absolved of wrongdoing because another one is involved in similar wrongdoing?

  • MusicMan says:

    These are not the schools we once thought they were. And, perhaps they never really were. This is a corporation, plain and simple. It may be non–profit but it matters not. The decision here was about the money. Rossi is disingenuous when he states that there would be no profit from this tour. The profit is from Chinese donors and enrollment, which depends in part on Chinese students. Without those students, ESM may not be able to offer a traditional orchestra. This is it folks, this is the reality of the American conservatory. It’s what you get when public school students are staved for decades of quality music instruction, while China values it.

  • Flin says:

    I never heard of your organization until I read about it on Reddit. Now I’m going to make sure I remember. What a complete disgrace everyone involved, including the students, the faculty, the whole organization. Bowing down to China and kicking your Korean students off is the most un-American thing I can imagine. Don’t think the American people don’t know about this. This news is going far and wide. You picked the wrong side.

  • Ginger Dodd says:

    When countries make laws like ‘no South Koreans,’ they generally make sure those who go against the rules are punished. How often have you read about tourists who only raise a suspicion being thrown into prison for years? Doesn’t seem to me like a reasonable risk to take with a regime of that sort. Also, when the plans were first made, Trump and the Chinese had not yet drawn lines in the sands of that subject, so the plans did need to be rethought considering the new rules. If the music group had cancelled, it might have pleased the Chinese leadership, but it would have disappointed many citizens of both countries who had no say in the leadership quarrel. The Eastman students would have missed an educational and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime visit to Communist China, and the Chinese audience would have missed the opportunity to meet and talk with this group of educated, FREE musicians of the United States. I feel sure the South Korean students understood the situation better than any of us, and were grateful that their thoughts were considered before a final decision was made. I would not want to go anywhere I wasn’t wanted , and particularly not to a country with such archaic laws regarding dissent.

  • Jim Wilt says:

    Tell China to shove it and try to go to South Korea instead. You should not have involved the students in this decision in any form, whether or not their input was a factor. It is my understanding that two-thirds of the students voted to go – if this is true, it confirms two enormous mistakes: that they were even asked to vote, and that the results of that vote were made public. Disgraceful. There was a great teaching opportunity here, a chance to demonstrate exactly what integrity looks like, and the ball was fumbled, badly.

    • K says:

      Excellent points.

    • Jim Wilt says:

      I realize replying to my own post is bad form, but… Eastman has reversed course. I’m not concerned so much about how what I believe to be the correct decision was made, just that it happened. I applaud the fact they were willing to reconsider rather than double down on a bad decision. We need to acknowledge that and not continue the beat down.

  • K says:

    ESM grad here. The tour should have been canceled; period. Everyone goes or no one goes. We’ve just sent a message that China can dictate the rules about cultural exchange and ESM bends to further its own musical hegemony. This is not directed towards Dr. Rossi, but this borders on shameful.

    • Bill says:

      Newsflash: they’ve already had the ability to dictate the rules about cultural exchange, and so has every other government. If you have a member of your orchestra from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea or Venezuela, the US State Department will likely not allow them to enter the country. Many countries will not allow you to enter if you have been convicted of a serious crime, or use drugs, or any number of other restrictions. Suppose there’s a student in the tour orchestra who gets busted on a drug charge (I know, no musicians ever use drugs, right…) and the destination country decides not to grant a visa? You going to tell the rest of the orchestra they are no longer going on tour because that musician can’t go? You think you’re going to get that country to change its laws?

      • K says:

        Well, if you provide instances where this has occurred fine. In general, I don’t think musicians from South Korea are considered extremists. In this particular case, ESM administration should not have capitulated.

  • K says:

    First comment footnote. I’m not a high-roller by any means but I may seriously consider any continued monetary gifts to ESM. I am extremely disappointed by this decision.

  • Wow isn’t it 2019? says:

    the trip should have been cancelled.

  • OldSarg says:

    All those hours of dedicated practice on the part of the South Koreans. Just think if they planned to visit the middle east and the Gay members were not allowed to attend. Just think if they were to visit England and the Conservative members were not able to attend. Just think if they were to visit LA and the Christians were not able to attend. Just think. . . So much sacrifice, so much blood, so many lives but “The Show Must Go On”. I really dislike selfish cowards.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    It’s easy to demand bravery from someone else.

  • Bill says:

    A Message from the Dean
    Dear Members of the Eastman Community,

    I write with an update on the planned Eastman Philharmonia tour of China. I initially chose to proceed with this tour to preserve a transformative opportunity for eighty students. But even after I announced my decision last week, my colleagues and I continued to actively explore multiple avenues to obtain appropriate visas for every member of the ensemble. Ultimately, however, we were not successful. Therefore, in consultation with many individuals, including University and Eastman leadership and our Chinese tour organizers, we have decided to postpone the tour until all members of the orchestra can participate.

    I am grateful to the many individuals who took the time to share their thoughts about this matter. Regardless of individual positions, the overriding message for which we can all be grateful was a deep appreciation and respect for Eastman and a commitment to the standards and excellence that have marked our school for nearly 100 years.

    For many years, Eastman musicians have performed in venues around the globe to a wide variety of audiences. It is my priority and personal commitment to continue to provide opportunities for Eastman students to share their music with the world. But I believe that given the particular circumstances of this tour, the best course of action for the Eastman community and the values we share is to wait until the Philharmonia can perform as one.

    Sincerely yours,
    Jamal Rossi

    Jamal J. Rossi
    Joan and Martin Messinger Dean
    Eastman School of Music