Left his $22,000 flute on a Chicago train

Left his $22,000 flute on a Chicago train


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2021

A student at Berklee is appealing for anyone who saw the flute he left on a train on the Chicago subway.

‘When my grandmother died from cancer in 2016, she left it in her will that I could get a flute,’ said Donald Rabin, 23. ‘And that’s something that has always been so special to me.’


  • John Borstlap says:

    It’s amazing how often these things happen – professional musicians thoughtlessly leaving their violin, double bass, trombone, kettle drums etc. etc. on trains, busses, the tube. Well-known is the phenomenon of programmers of contemporary music ensembles searching train compartiments late at night for left instruments, which explains the often weird combinations on their programmes. Especially international tours are dangerous; in 1992 famous conductor [redacted] left his orchestra on a South Korean train, which cut their tour short because the players were never to be seen again. And who forgot Cameron Carpenter’s absentmindedness when he entered the concert hall of Meiningen to suddenly realize he had left his organ at the parking lot?

    The worst case of disappearance was the unlucky fate of the Orchestre National du Midi in the sixties which disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on their way to their first USA tour. But that was not by carelessness but by natural causes.

  • CYM says:

    Wish that ‘someone’ stole his $2,600 awful pants and jacket instead …

  • V.Lind says:

    Sympathy under control.

  • anonymous says:

    No student needs a $22K flute.

    He better have bought good insurance.

    Probably just a melted lump of molten metal by now, although 440 grams of silver is worth only about $380, whoever found it is more likely looking for a fence, even if sold on the black market for a 10th of its market value.

    • BruceB says:

      That’s the price of a 10k gold flute with silver keys; just FYI.

      Probably true about the fence, sadly; hopefully not true about the melting down. I know lost or stolen instruments do turn up sometimes, but I don’t know what happens to the ones that don’t. The one hopeful sign is that this was left on a train, not actively stolen. It’s possible (well, not impossible) that someone honest picked it up and is trying to figure out what to do with it.

      As for who “needs” a fancy instrument: well, mileage varies. As a student you want a good instrument that will let you/help you grow, not a mediocre one that will limit you. The best policy is usually to get the best one you can, now, so that you hopefully won’t need to get another one for a long time, if ever; and with prices only ever going up, who knows what you will be able to afford when the time comes. (And if you need a different instrument later, the nicer one you have now, the more you can sell it for to finance the next one.)

  • henry williams says:

    i hope the boy has the flute insured.

  • BruceB says:

    Again: considering how often parents forget their small children in public places, I’m surprised that people get so heated up about someone leaving an instrument on a train. (I mean, I’m not actually surprised; I’m just reminded of it every time.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      I once went shopping with my grandma in a very large Sainsbury and left her in the cart afterwards. It took me two weeks to discover her absence and to find her back. But she had survived with eating from the racks.


      • Één der Borstlappen says:

        Ik ben benieuwd of je überhaupt iets serieus kunt schrijven, of denkt dat eenieder om je opmerkingen in een deuk ligt.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I say that regularly but to no effect.

          He says the wit is for the incrowd. But what does that mean? And who is that anyway?


  • Another orchestral musician says:

    Can’t even imagine how I would feel if I was going through this situation. Hope he finds it!!

  • Patricia says:

    This never happens to harpsichordists.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Or tuba players

    • BruceB says:

      Or construction crane operators.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Don’t say that too quickly. In 2007 a Moscovite construction worker forgot his crane on a wednesday afternoon and it was never recovered; after a month the police had to inform him that it probably had disappeared into the black market.

      • henry williams says:

        or wives.

    • Robert King says:

      It’s one of those occasional subjects of post-concert discussion, usually with a timpanist. Has someone out there successfully actually got a harpsichord onto a passenger train, somewhere?

      I once got a harpsichord wedged into a passenger lift at London’s Barbican in the early 1980s when I got hopelessly lost (the norm in those days for everyone) whilst trying to reach a foyer to play wallpaper music for the passing masses. The instrument, already half on its end, slipped off the trolley and I had a terrible time trying to get it back on so I could reverse it (and me) out without knocking the ceiling out of the lift. Watching that struggle was surely much more entertaining to the public than listening to the trio sonatas we then played.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Beautiful story.

        Such things never happened at the 18C courts. The worst that could happen was dropping your wig during an adagio.

  • James McCarty says:

    You had one job.

  • JussiB says:

    LA Phil’s new principal cello had his famous instrument stolen from his front porch. (it played in premiere of the Dvorak concerto). It was finally found in a trash dumpster because the thief tried to chop it up to make a bookcase but gave up.
    Good luck finding the flute.

  • TuttiFlutie says:

    Not a great idea to announce the value of the flute. It’s a big disservice to the entire flute community. We don’t need the general public knowing how much our instruments are worth. It’s not going to help him find it any faster, either. You can’t count on the finder just freely handing over something they suddenly realize is so valuable. With no reward, no less.

    You talk about sentimental value, how it’s one of kind & unique & will be immediately identifiable if someone tries to sell it. And for God’s sake, you give a description, the make & the serial no. We can see from the case it’s a Haynes but he needs to publicize a full description.

    I am truly sorry for his loss. This actually happens more than one might think, but I’ve seldom seen a glaring headline of a missing instrument’s value like this. It was not a smart move. You just don’t do it. Frankly, this fellow should take the insurance money and go study something else. The world is already overpopulated with wanna be pro flutists & anyone dumb enough to announce his lost flute like this should be culled.

  • henry williams says:

    0n the news today it has been found in a pawn shop.
    the boy must be have a feeling of relief.
    i know the feeling i once left a pair of new trousers on the
    tube . they were still there on the next train going out.

    • John Borstlap says:

      My uncle Arnold also once left his trousers on the tube, it was on a warm summer day, and only when he was stopped at Regent Street by a bobby he realized he was walking in his underpants. He was quite traumatized, as was the bobby.


      • Miriam Charney says:

        John Borstlap, who ARE you?! your humor is resurrecting Beyond the Fringe and Dudley Moore for me. THANKS for much needed chuckles. I must add, as a pianist, I’ve never left my instrument. OTOH, there are instruments I had to play on, which I wished had been left under the train.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Indeed it sometimes seems that concert hall staff try to collect such public transport victims for their recital series, which is puzzling. One theory is that they reserve them for contemporary programmes…..

  • JussiB says:

    I predict it will turn in in a pawn shop.