NY airport security broke my double bass

NY airport security broke my double bass


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2020

From the US bassist Louis Levitt, a member of Sybarite5:

Flying from Newark EWR to San Diego SAN Feb 7th 7:55 pm flight 2304.

The bass was checked in and hand delivered to TSA by me at which point they refused to allow me to be present for the screening, but assured me that it would not be opened.

The bass is in a case by David Gage made out of carbon fiber. The bass is circa 1887 and valued at over $100,000. But as you know that its not about the money because it’s insured. It’s about preserving the instruments and history for future generations.






  • Martin J Murphy says:

    How was it broaken?

  • Calvin says:

    One almost wonders whether there is a vandalistic antiintellectual impulse at play underpinning all these stories: viewed as symbols of effete elitism, these instruments are singled out as targets of rough treatment.

    Then again, when uncomplicated stupidity is a sufficient explanation there rarely is need for recourse to any other.

    • Mr. Schwa says:

      That’s very likely : I am sure the TSA staff are trained to identify the finest musical instruments so that they can deliberately damage them. Once as I was going through a TSA checkpoint, I overheard the agents discussing Stradivarius violins…..

  • Ben G. says:

    The picture is not very explicit of the damage that was caused, but from what I see, any luthier would be able to fix this crack.

    Back in ’82 while touring the US with a chamber orchestra for 40 days, the neck of my instrument snapped off at the heel in one piece due to rough handling. The case (not mine) was a solidly woven one made out of straw and perfectly suited for ground travel. It protected my instrument for 95% of the tour up until the accident at the end of the trip. Luckily, the bass was perfectly repaired but I no longer have it. Needless to say, the group purchased a carbon fiber case afterwards.

    There was no Internet and no TSA at the time, to tell people about this, so consider yourself thankful to be able to bring this situation forward and speak about it.

    Airline handling will never change; they really don’t care about taking the responsibility of the damage caused to these bulky objects. The only thing we do is to travel with cheaper instruments (yes I know, not very artistic), but in the long run and in my opinion, this is most likely the best way to protect valuable instruments for posterity.

    And we bassists all know the crazy video of this bass phenomenon legend (with whom I studied with too) who never complained about the damage that was caused to his instrument:


  • Rich Patina says:

    After all of the mangled basses I have seen on SD, it is difficult to understand why anyone still attempts airline travel with their instrument.

    It is eminently possible to arrange the rental/loan of a quality bass almost anywhere, be it from a local music store, university or by finding a local player. I know – I used to live in a small town in the middle of nowhere and on several occasions I rented out my instrument to traveling bassists.

    Yes, yes – I know it isn’t quite the same as your own instrument, but (assuming it is, at least, a professional-grade instrument) it really isn’t all that different and it is doubtful that anyone in the audience would know or care.

    As Gary Karr used to tell seminar students, it’s not the bass – it’s the player. He would prove it by taking the worst, beat-up bass that the school owned and making it sound great.

    Surely the minor inconvenience of playing a bass different from your own is preferable to having your instrument damaged or destroyed by the airlines and/or TSA.

  • Ben G. says:

    To sum your reply/comment up, …an instrument that sits on a chair, does not make music by itself.