Italian virtuoso is barred from the US

Italian virtuoso is barred from the US


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2020

The piccolo player Nicola Mazzanti, due to perform this weekend at Fresno Pacific University, was turned back on Monday at Boston’s Logan Airport and sent home.

Nothing to do with coronavirus. Just a visa issue, he was shocked to learn.

Mazzanti told Fresno Pacific in an email: ‘I have been organizing my piccolo festival for many years in Italy, and a work visa has never been requested. Since 2005 I have often come to the USA to play small concerts as you know well and I have never had problems.’

More here from Donald Munro.



  • Visaforall says:

    If policies say you need a working visa, why should there be exceptions just because you were never asked for one?

    I know so many colleagues doing this, loughing loud that they earn lots of money their states will never notice (like getting paied cash for masters). But don’t we all use what state pays for us using taxes? Is it right, that some people even double their yearly salary with money nobody knows about?

    • SVM says:

      In generic terms, I agree with much of what “Visaforall” says. However, it has not been established where the fault lies in this particular case. It may well be that the fault lies with Mazzanti and/or his agent/sponsor/engager, but it is also possible that the border control got it wrong. And even if Mazzanti were at fault, that does not necessarily mean he was acting negligently or in bad faith. Unless/until the facts of the matter are known, one should refrain from making public accusations of tax evasion and/or immigration offences.

  • Doug says:

    Before you open borders bots chime in with your bumper sticker slogans consider this: have you ever attempted to enter an EU country (as a non-Schengen area citizen of course) seek and accept a job, temporary or permanent without a visa or permit? How far do you think you would get?

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      Really far. Before I moved to the EU I often toured Europe and I never needed a visa. Colleagues of mine still tour Europe and play concerts without visas. And I sometimes hire non-EU musicians for projects in Germany. No visa needed. In Germany there is a foreigner tax (Ausländersteuer) but it is paid by the promoter, not the artist. I’m excluding the UK, of course, for which a visa was always required.

    • anon-i-mouse says:


      I wonder how Mazzanti has managed immigration in the past – “purpose of trip” – “I’m running a festival?” or “purpose of trip” – “tourism”……

      If Fresno Pacific is cutting a check – they should also be providing a work visa.

  • Christopher Daniels says:

    It’s a hassle to get the proper visa–dealing with a U.S. consulate, paperwork, necessary documents to be presented and the wait for the visa to be processed and granted (usually at the last minute). But if you travel the the U.S. and work while on a tourist visa or business or education visa (or travel from a tourist visa waiver country) the U.S. has always been serious about enforcing the consequences. I have know musicians who were turned away at a port of entry and others who were banned from further entry to the U.S. for a number of years.

  • O1-visa holder says:

    The visa rules are pretty clear for us from Europe touring the US.

    Any public concert, with sold tickets or not, requests a visa. Teaching at any schools requests a visa.

    If you do a single, or a few appearances, like a lecture, for a closed society (a course or like mentioned above a university) it is ESTA for business.

    In this case someone obviously got it wrong. Fresno, Mazzanti or the Boston immigration…

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      In his email, Mazzanti says exactly what he did wrong (see the link for the complete explanation).

      He says “Since 2005 I have often come to the USA to play small concerts as you know well and I have never had problems.”

      In the linked article, Mazzanti makes it clear that he has never obtained a US work visa and he was unfamiliar with the process.

      Something that the US immigration bureaucrats have started to do in recent years is that when a musician either applies for a visa or attempts to enter without one, they look at the musician’s historical travel patterns to the US. If these patterns would be difficult to explain through anything but visa-less work, the musician is likely to be sent home. Three of my colleagues have been sent home under similar circumstances and one is in the midst of a 10-year ban for applying for a work visa after more than a decade of frequent visits to perform without a visa.

      • SVM says:

        The sentence quoted does *not* say Mazzanti worked without a visa — it says he has “never had problems” (which could mean Mazzanti has always obtained the correct visa and entered the USA smoothly). The previous sentence in the relevant message (quoted in the linked article but not in the comment above) says that “a work visa has never been requested” in respect of Mazzanti’s festival in *Italy*, as opposed to the USA.

        The fact that three of Mr. Knowitall’s colleagues may have worked illegally in the USA does not prove anything in respect of Mazzanti or anybody else who has recently had trouble with border control. So, unless Mr. Knowitall has some evidence that has not been made public, he *cannot* assume that Mazzanti failed to obtain (and got away with failing to obtain) the correct visa on his previous visits to the USA. As for the latest occasion, the linked article makes a vague reference to “An issue with his visa”, rather than “lack of visa”. If Mr. Knowitall’s conjecture should prove erroneous, Mazzanti may be entitled to sue him for libel.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Just from the perspective of a (left) coastline hugger, he might be lucky to be spared Fresno.

  • Anon says:

    An ESTA visa has been required for European visits precisely for this purpose for a number of years now. It’s not clear to me why Mr. Mazzanti should feel that he would be exempt from that.

    What’s also curious that the airline he was traveling on would have certainly would have reminded him.

  • PumpkinMan says:

    All these Italian piccolo players coming over the wall! When will it end?!