Some Hassles of International Cello Travel

Cello Bello Blog - Thu, 2016-06-02 00:51

By Zachary Mowitz:

Curtis Institute cello student Zachary Mowitz tells the story of his recent travel to Europe, and the stress and aggravation caused by inconsistent cello policies between airlines, and untrained and uninformed airline personnel.

As a student cellist I’ve had several occasions to travel by plane with my cello, both domestically and internationally. This is the first journey where I’ve had any difficulty at all– every time I’ve traveled before, I’ve always been let on (I even traveled to Europe with Lufthansa a couple years ago, and they were one of the most helpful back then), with at most a look of incredulity at my bringing a big guitar on board.

In fact, everything looked all right, at first, for this flight. Lufthansa let me check in (at Philly for a flight to Valencia, Spain, with a layover in Frankfurt) without any real difficulty. It wasn’t until we reached our gate that the same woman who had checked us in met us to inform me that I could not be let on board because the cello ticket was not “associated”; correctly and consequently was not registered as having been paid for. After about two hours of calling everybody we could think of– all of which amounted to our travel agents saying the tickets were definitely paid for and booked correctly while the gate agent kept insisting it wasn’t associated correctly, without explaining what that meant– the gates were shut and our tour manager and I were left to find a new flight (the rest of our group continued without us).

We were lucky enough to find a flight through United just a couple hours later, with a connection in London through British Airways. Their employees were among the most helpful I’ve ever encountered. In London, however, the ticket again wasn’t showing up correctly, but after about 20 minutes, they fixed the booking and explained that every airline has a different policy for these things. We ended up arriving in Barcelona, driving down Spain’s stunning Mediterranean for four hours to arrive in Valencia about 23 hours after we first showed up at the Philly airport. When we flew out about a week later from Valencia to Berlin with Swiss Air, we ran into yet another issue, which was that my cello’s ticket was not showing up at all. The clerk said that it must have been cancelled because we didn’t get on our initial flight in the itinerary for the tour (although my personal ticket and the tour manager’s ticket were just fine). We rebooked all three tickets (mine, my cello, and the tour manager’s) and ran into the same problem, which they couldn’t explain, so we just proceeded to the gate hoping that there would be an extra seat and the flight attendants would be accommodating. Everything turned out fine and we learned during our layover in Zurich that the additional seat did not show up because Swiss Air’s policy was to book one ticket and then have an extra seat with no name. The clerk there knew this instantly, whereas nobody ever figured this out in Valencia.

What I took away from all this is that, as they said in London, it’s different for every airline– but not just every airline, every airport. The policy is there and seems pretty clear for every airline, but not all clerks at every airport are trained well enough to find it. Valencia is a relatively small airport, so they probably don’t run into as many cellists as Zurich or London. Philly is not small, but as one of the Lufthansa employees very earnestly told us as we were figuring out our new ticket with United, their airline has relatively few flights out of Philly and this likely contributed to the problem.

Born and raised in Princeton, NJ, Cellist Zachary Mowitz currently studies at the Curtis Institute with Carter Brey and Peter Wiley.  Previously he worked with Lynne Beiler, Efe Baltacigil, Dane Johansen and Priscilla Lee. Zachary has performed as a soloist with several orchestras in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and has attended summer programs at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill and Taos School of Music, where he co-founded the St. Bernard Trio.  He served as Principal Cello of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and was featured in Curtis on Tour in Spain and Germany during the Spring of 2016. Zachary plays on a cello generously loaned to him by the Carlsen Cello Foundation.

Curtis on Tour is Stalled by Airline Refusal To Take Cello

Cello Bello Blog - Sat, 2016-05-21 17:42

Reprinted from Slipped Disc May 21, 2016

Students from the Curtis Institute were boarding a plane at Philadelphia this weekend at the start of a tour of Spain when a Lufthansa official refused to take a cello on board.

The cellist, Zach, had to take another plane – American Airlines, no problem with cello – but he could only get a flight to London and spent many hours trying to connect up with the others in Valencia.

The first Curtis on Tour performance is May 18 in Alicante.

Curtis have confirmed that ‘there were indeed difficulties with a cello’ and are looking into the incident.

Lufthansa have offered no excuses, yet.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE:

Apparently, at Philadelphia airport, Lufthansa staff gave a variety of reasons why the cello ticket could not be issued to the group. First that a boarding pass could not be printed in their system, then that the ticket was not paid for.

Despite a confirmation from Curtis’s travel agent that the ticket was paid for and a ticket number, Lufthansa was unable to resolve the problem within 2 hours, and the flight departed without the cello or cellist on board. The flight was booked through a an experienced classical-music travel agent who has booked many cello tickets down the years. She has never seen anything like this before.

Lufthansa owe Curtis an apology.

'To Be or Not to Be, I There's the Point.' Or Conversations Overheard!!

Huffington College - Sat, 2016-05-14 10:37
Do you ever do that? Deliberately put yourself in line of hearing other people's conversations? My wife and I are terrible offenders, if indeed it is an offense. We know intuitively when there is a situation, a possibility, to observe and hear life and people unedited, which can yield such fascinating results. Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-woodcock/

'To Be or Not to Be, I There's the Point.' Or Conversations Overheard!!

Huffington College - Sat, 2016-05-14 06:10
Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/tony-woodcock

'To Be or Not to Be, I There's the Point.' Or Conversations Overheard!!

Huffington College - Sat, 2016-05-14 06:10
Do you ever do that? Deliberately put yourself in line of hearing other people's conversations? My wife and I are terrible offenders, if indeed it is an offense. We know intuitively when there is a situation, a possibility, to observe and hear life and people unedited, which can yield such fascinating results. Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/tony-woodcock

Exploring Colombia's Youth Music Initiatives

Avi Mehta's Blog - Sun, 2016-01-10 11:09
Prior to arriving in Colombia this past summer, I had numerous preconceived ideas of what to expect based on my previous trips to Venezuela. Given their proximity on the map, similar heritage, and testimonies by numerous visitors, I came away from my three-week trip realizing that Colombia was a country headed in a very different direction from its neighbor, both in their development of society and El Sistema.
            With tourism thriving and a rough history with drugs mostly in its past, each of the four cities I visited in Colombia were unique. I packed for weather ranging from 40—90 degrees as the changes in climate and landscape were as diverse as the Sistema-inspired programs I visited.  
My trip started in Medellin, a very large city bustling with traffic, mountainous views, perfect temperatures, and stunning properties. The youth instrumental programs in Medellin are run by an organization called La Red, which serves students in over 30 neighborhoods and schools throughout the city. Funded by the city government, the program serves both affluent and underserved areas—a unique concept in Medellin, where lots of effort has been placed on equalizing the playing field between residents with a varied levels of income. I was introduced to two schools in La Red by two of my former Boston colleagues, Rebecca Levi (Sistema Fellow ’10) and Claudia Garcia. When visiting the programs, we witnessed a less intense, but more creative approach to music making. Each program showcases a different type of ensemble, caters to all ages, and also provides instruction in music literacy. For instance, In Claudia’s nucleo, a theatre teacher taught a class on how to use their body’s to communicate and build trust within an ensemble. When visiting the wind ensemble in another part of the city, the ages of the students ranged from 12—22.
            After a quick vacation in the popular city of Cartagena, my next stop was Santa Marta, a warm, tropical, costal city on the Caribbean. Another former Boston colleague, Antonio Berdugo, hosted me as we spent our time hosting seminarios with students in Cajamag, a private organization that uses public funding to serve youth in the area. The music program is only a small branch of the organization, which leads to an insufficient quantity on resources, limiting their ability to grow artistically. This was a huge contrast to Venezuela’s national Sistema, which is able to offer more support and resources to their teachers, helping them  improve the musical level of their program. The students in Santa Marta, of course, were fantastic to work with and displayed enthusiasm and hospitality that made rehearsals in the intense heat totally enjoyable.
            The final leg of my trip was in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city situated at over 8,000ft, where the temperature stays in the 50’s year around. I had a wonderful time working with the musicians of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Batuta, the largest music for social change organization in the country. Given their flagship status, my first instinct was to compare their Metropolitan Youth Orchestra with the leading youth orchestras in Venezuela. However, given that the organization has branches in fewer cities, focuses more on fundamental musical training rather than orchestra training, and has been around for only just over 20 years, I realized that the leading “Sistema’s” in both countries are quite distinct. The lack of one governing organization throughout the country made it more difficult to achieve the standardized resources, which has led to so much artistic success in Venezuela. However, the more localized approach to building a Sistema in each city, rather than to form a national system has yielded some flexibility is allowing for each city to have numerous organizations create their own programs and customize their approach to each community.
            The difference in infrastructures in Colombia and Venezuela was certainly unexpected at first. While Venezuela has clearly invested much of its resources into developing a national system of youth orchestras that serves as many youth as possible, Colombia had a feel much closer to that of the United States and Europe--separate organizations created localized programs without much outside leadership. The clear commonality between the two South American countries was the children, who were eager, passionate, and relentless in their pursuit of music education, which instilled the joy that will motivate me to plan my next trip to South America soon. 
 
For a video containing photos, rehearsal footage, and student testimonies from my trip to Colombia, please see the video below!
 
http://www.redmusicamedellin.org/
http://www.cajamag.com.co/#/
http://www.fundacionbatuta.org/

Briefly on Senior Year

Penguin - Mon, 2015-11-02 16:58
by ELIZABETH WENDT 4th Year – BM Voice     Another year full of excitement is budding here at NEC. For me, this year is unlike any other…It’s my senior year! I honestly thought that this day would never come – that it would be forever before I would have to face the idea of moving […]

The NEC Team

Penguin - Mon, 2015-11-02 16:48
by ALEX STENING 2nd Year – MM French Horn     For those of you returning to Boston and NEC, welcome back! And for those who are starting their first year, welcome to the team! Last year, I remember sitting in Jordan Hall with the pipe organ towering above and being surrounded by a sea of students […]

Composers in the Kitchen

Penguin - Mon, 2015-11-02 16:40
By SARAH ATWOOD 2nd Year – MM Violin       Rumor has it that Niccolo Paganini was a virtuoso in the kitchen, as well as onstage. He has a famous ravioli recipe to prove it. Although Jean Sibelius did not compose during the latter part of his life, he did take the time to concoct […]

YOU PLAY BACH YOUR WAY, AND I'LL PLAY HIM HIS WAY. WANDA LANDOWSKA