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Update on Seized Bows; How to Lobby Congress to Allow for International Travel with Violin Bows

Laurie Niles

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Published: June 4, 2014 at 7:22 PM [UTC]

Update on the seven bows seized from members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday:

Bow tipsAccording to the New York Times, the orchestra had documentation for each bow, with photographs and letters from bow makers stating that they contained no banned ivory, said the orchestra's director, Stefan Englert. On Tuesday the bows were returned and sent back, after the orchestra showed the documentation and paid a total of $525 in fines and fees.

Obviously this situation, with its unpredictable outcomes even when an orchestra has obtained necessary documents, is untenable for traveling musicians.

What can we do?

Here is one step that many of us can take: American citizens can lobby their representatives in Congress with the help of an E-Advocacy page set up by the The League of American Orchestras. (Thank you to bowmaker Matt Wehling for pointing us to this page.)

Here is the link to that page.

This gives a template for a letter, but it also allows citizens to customize the letter with their own concerns. Among possible concerns:

  • Musicians traveling to the U.S. need clear instructions and a workable system that allow them to attain necessary permits to comply with these rules, in a timely manner.
  • Musicians need to be able to travel with their legally crafted, legally purchased musical instruments that contain endangered species material, without penalty
  • Allowances are needed for the legal sale and re-sale of existing, legally crafted musical instruments that contain small amounts of African elephant ivory

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From Kit Jennings
Posted on June 4, 2014 at 8:27 PM
The bows were returned, but what were the fines for?
Posted on June 5, 2014 at 1:56 PM
probably for not having an actual cites permit
Posted on June 5, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Yeah, they didn't have official passports for the bows, because (on the FWS webpage) it says it's not necessary unless the instrument contains the banned ivory. They had letters of attestation from bowmakers saying that any ivory on there wasn't from illegal stock (either it was old enough or it was mammoth ivory; I don't know), but it wasn't good enough for them. But it seems completely random--the NYT article says that one musician had two bows from the same maker, made in the same year, with essentially identical materials, and one was confiscated and one wasn't. Everyone is completely confused about this, and it's just a huge, huge mess.

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