The decision to go ahead with an orchestral tour of China after three South Korean students were refused visas has put Eastman School of Music on the spot. On the one hand, it needs to be polite to China in order to ensure a flow of fee-paying students, on the other it looks as if it is prepared to throw students overboard if their nationality interferes with the demands of a difficult partner. So it dumps the Koreans.
Think President Trump and the Kurds and you have just about got the picture.
Many former alumni have written to us, publicly and privately, protesting Dean Jamal Rossi’s decision.
Others have gone online.
The composer Armando Bayolo has written to Rossi:
In the 22 years since graduating from Eastman, I have also had the honor of teaching students of all ages. Part of the responsibility of a teacher, particularly of music teachers working, as we do, within the master/apprentice model, almost alone among all disciplines, we have a responsibility beyond merely providing unforgettable experiences to students and help guide and teach them INTEGRITY. As teachers, we have an immense responsibility to our students, part of which is teaching them to stand up for their convictions and to do what is right and honorable. What students in the Eastman Philharmonia are learning from this debacle is that the interests and integrity of three students are worth sacrificing for the sake of 80 other students who now seem far more privileged than their South Korean peers. An ensemble is a team, if not a family. If one student in the Philharmonia cannot attend the tour because of who they are and how a government sees them, then NO STUDENT IN THE PHILHARMONIA SHOULD ATTEND. That this was ever up for discussion is stupefying and, frankly, repugnant, and speaks ill for the values Eastman espouses.
It is time to be a LEADER, not just to the community within Gibbs street but to the community of alumni and fellow musicians around the world for whom Eastman is a name that implies excellence. I urge you to do the right thing here. The eyes of the world are upon you.
He’s nailed it.