Eastman to Remove Koreans from Top Orchestra For China Tour. Update: Tour postponed

October 27, 2019, 10:40 PM · Eastman, the music school of the University of Rochester, has decided to remove all Korean students from their Philharmonia Orchestra for their short tour of China.

Eastman Philharmonia

China refused to issue visas for Korean students, forcing Eastman to either remove them or cancel their tour. Eastman has shockingly chosen to go with the former.

Even more stunning, the students in the orchestra themselves voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the tour by leaving their peers behind. Under such tremendous pressure from their fellow students and school administrators, the Korean students could never have voiced any objections that they may have had.

There have been countless times in history where musicians have been called to stand up for their colleagues in the face of discrimination. In the Civil Rights era white jazz musicians would refuse to tour when their black colleagues were unwelcome. In World War II, which musicians chose solidarity with their colleagues and which chose collaboration is forever linked to their legacy.

By bowing to Chinese demands and enabling them to dictate exclusion on the basis of nationality in their orchestra, the students and administrators of Eastman have shown a remarkable lack of character and have put a black mark on the reputation of classical music when we can ill afford it, as the corruption and misconduct at institutions such as the Cleveland Symphony and Metropolitan Opera is fresh in the public mind.

Classical music speaks to the common experience of being human. It should not entertain the barriers of nationality, race, sex, or creed that may divide us.

UPDATE: Eastman reversed course on Tuesday night and has effectively cancelled the tour.


October 28, 2019 at 06:25 PM · Here is the message from Eastman dean Jamal Rossi regarding the tour.

October 28, 2019 at 10:30 PM · I read the letter. Nice stationary. The rest of it is nonsense. No, that's not right. It's cowardly nonsense. He should resign. Those kids who didn't stand up for their Korean friends should be ashamed of themselves. Trust me. This is going to come back to bite them for years to come. If they have any integrity left (a big IF) they'd rethink their selfish decision. When they say, "I was on the Eastman China Tour!" They'll seal their fate. Do they want to be artists or pawns? The moment is here. That's it.

October 28, 2019 at 11:33 PM · Thank you Laurie for leaving this unaltered (except the nice photo).

For readers who notice that the language may not be up to journalistic standards, please know that this started as my personal blog post. I fully stand by it, but it was not written by violinist.com staff.

October 28, 2019 at 11:39 PM · I didn’t read the dean’s letter but maybe they couldn’t afford the cost of canceling the tour if tickets / accommodations and venues had already been paid for and were not refundable.

October 29, 2019 at 12:03 AM · Well, while you are all busy clutching your pearls, I’ll just say that were I to be one of the few students discriminated against by the foreign government, I would encourage my classmates to go on with the tour without me. Not their fault the government decided to engage in petty politics! The US (and most every other) government does the same sort of thing all the time.

October 29, 2019 at 01:13 AM · Sure, the Korean students wanting that makes sense, I would want the same in their position. The problem is with the rest of the students wanting to leave them behind.

This isn't a normal response, an Iranian Judoist recently refused to drop out against his Israeli competitor despite fearing for his life upon return to Iran. The Judo federation has since banned Iran and Germany gave him asylum. It's sad that athletics organizations are standing up against nationalism and musical ones are enabling it. Giving China what they want is not the way to push back against this kind of discrimination however the dean tries to spin it.

October 29, 2019 at 02:03 AM · i think its a bit harsh comparing this to the likes of civil rights era when their black colleagues were unwelcome. the motive behind this is the run off from the dispute the CCP have with the south korean gov't installing missile base.

October 29, 2019 at 02:12 AM · Hi Kyle, I believe it is more than fair. Brubeck gave up massive sums of money for refusing to tour the South, Eastman would have given up nothing for refusing to go.

China's motive is understandable (less so under Moon than Park, but still understandable), Eastman's response is not.

October 29, 2019 at 02:19 AM · Rossi said there's no profit in this for Eastman. I believe that. I have seen the expenses associated with overseas tours for orchestras, and they're phenomenal. The families likely paid dearly for their kids to participate, as all expenses were almost certainly not paid by Eastman. It's one thing to sell candy bars for Band Camp -- quite another to fund an international trip.

Remember the story of the Trojan Horse? Sometimes the best way to wage a campaign is to get inside first. Perhaps the leadership of the Eastman Philharmonia will find an appropriate opportunity to make a public statement or such.

October 29, 2019 at 02:24 AM · Hi Paul. When I toured China there was no cost for students, we auditioned for the orchestra and the trip was paid for, I believe, by the Chinese government. Eastman is a school of similar standing, I can't imagine Oberlin students went for free and Eastman students are paying their way!

Edit: Promotional materials from that tour mention funding from the Beijing Concert Hall Corporation. We were provided with travel, lodging, and meals, I was only responsible for incidentals.

October 29, 2019 at 03:22 AM · "He made his decision after meeting with the group and speaking to each of the three students who would be left behind."

Is this translation for "I made it clear that it would reflect poorly on the students if they decided to rock the boat in this moment?" How can they expect students (and not, say, orchestral leadership) to make an informed decision in this context? This reeks of CYA rather than a team effort.

October 29, 2019 at 03:41 AM · "i think its a bit harsh comparing this to the likes of civil rights era when their black colleagues were unwelcome. the motive behind this is the run off from the dispute the CCP have with the south korean gov't installing missile base."

Does it matter what the motive, stated or unstated, is? I see the bigger issue here is the power that China is accumulating in so many ways, including technological (surveillance) and political (influence in regions we have neglected, such as Africa and South America). I do not see China as a benign player in world affairs; they are guided by no apparent moral or philosophical principles except hyper-capitalism.

Today we are reluctant to stand up to China, and tomorrow we will be unable to stand up to them.

The money? It's an excuse. Eastman relies on students from Korea and China to fill their orchestra, their teaching studios, and their coffers. The dean knows what side his bread is buttered on. This is the amoral transactional thinking that helped to elect our current president and his craven lot: "I got a nice tax break..."

October 29, 2019 at 04:01 AM · sure it does, the motive here is not racist as being compared to the civil rights where blacks cannot play in the south, but a political run off,

not defending china in anyway, but i rather they have no moral than bad morals, how many countries we the U.S are invading/ have send troops to now based on moral? i lost count.

since its been pointed out that its the CCP thats basically sponsoring the trip. its their money, if you feel so morally against it, play their game and vote with your dollar.

reality check aside, i seen far worse cases in the middle east, where palestinian musicians get some bogus reasons for their travel pass being denied on a daily basis, its almost a norm now. why isn't that being talked about? i feel the media criticism are always extra harsh whenever it comes to china.


October 29, 2019 at 04:06 AM · I am not condoning in any way actions against Palestinian (or Israeli) musicians, nor the cancelled tours caused by the US travel ban or any other barrier to artistic expression.

Two wrongs don't make a right, that's whataboutism. Eastman is a US-based institution, not a Middle Eastern one, and should still know better.

October 29, 2019 at 05:22 AM · It is such critical moment that puts true leadership to a test. It's not the time for democratic vote. A capable leader would make a decisive move to cancel the tour instead of succumbing to Chinese tyranny, regardless of how graciously the Korean students would want the tour to go on. For whatever cost, the school instead should make up for the students by arranging another tour ASAP, to a civilized nation, if money is truly not an issue here as the Dean's letter claims.

October 29, 2019 at 09:18 AM · Well said, Joseph Galamba — both your OP and all your comments!

—Alison Fujito

Violinist, Pittsburgh Symphony

October 29, 2019 at 11:21 AM · I've got an idea, Joseph. Next time you make a blog post, start with a pretense of inviting comments and civil discussion, but then shout down everyone who doesn't see it exactly your way with bold-faced righteous indignation. Oh wait. You're already doing that.

Scott's comments point to a prevailing perception that everything in academia is tainted by perverse incentives. Well, as an academician, I can attest that there's something to that. My first impulse upon reading the OP was "How could they?" Then I read Rossi's letters and they seemed convincing too. We haven't heard the students' voices directly. The Korean students especially are placed in an impossible position. We don't know what the students said among themselves when their superiors -- upon whom they are depending for their careers -- aren't listening. Maybe in time we will as they graduate and emerge from that penumbra.

The die has been cast. Predictable (likely justified) outrage has been levied. Will some good come of it? Time will tell. One thing to remember is that the decision was indeed made by Rossi. He's claiming responsibility for it and that's where responsibility should rest. The idea that the students who are traveling should be blacklisted from joining orchestras is, in my opinion, a disproportionate response. It's true they're adults and should be responsible for their actions, but there are limits to what can be reasonably expected. Try teaching in a university for a couple of decades and you'll realize that's true. It might not be ideal, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in a real one.

October 29, 2019 at 11:38 AM · Paul, I did not suggest the students should be blacklisted, that was a different commenter.

I also don't believe I'm shouting down anybody, it is literally impossible to do so in this written format. Perhaps I have been so convincing as to erase other comments from your memory, but the foregoing is still right there for all to see!

You suggested parents paid for this tour; this is likely untrue. If you believe the position taken by Eastman is defensible that's your prerogative, but if you are just unhappy about being challenged on that I'm afraid that's simply too bad.

I'm also afraid I'm not much fun at parties.

October 29, 2019 at 12:08 PM · If China is going to be like that, don't go there. Take the students on tour where ALL are welcome. What if a country doesn't accept women? or gays? or some ethnic group? Music should reflect the best of people. China is promoting its own adjenda. Eastman could have made a point by standing by the S. Korean students.

October 29, 2019 at 12:40 PM · Might the tour to some extent be saved ethically by programming music with an explicit message in favour of rights and democracy, and outspokenly critical of tyranny and state control?

October 29, 2019 at 02:45 PM · Richard likely the music has been chosen long ago and has already been rehearsed extensively, but it's an interesting thought. I had in mind something a little more in-your-face like wearing Korean flags on their clothes for the performance on the last day, or playing the Korean national anthem as an encore.

Regarding the financing of the trip, I don't know the details there. Do you? (Besides what you find "likely," that is.) It's possible students will spend out of pocket only for incidentals. The idea that the trip should go forward because some families changed their holiday plans -- this defense seemed a little thin.

What will the students learn while they are there? Is it only a tour of performances or is there opportunity for useful cultural exchange as well?

October 29, 2019 at 02:49 PM · Hello! Eastman student who is on the Philharmonia tour here. This article is extremely misleading, and is spreading a lot of misinformation. And the comments are disheartening.

1) All the students are going for free

2) no South Koreans musicians who are citizens of South Korea have been issued a work Visa to perform in China since 2017. Not Kpop groups, not classical musicians. Yet plenty of orchestras in the world have been touring China these past two years, including schools like Northwestern and Juilliard, all without their South Korean students. So why is Eastman getting blamed for setting a precedent?

3) most of my colleagues whom I talked to voted for not going to the tour, but we told the administration we will not revolt against their decisions. Please tell how are the students responsible for a decision not made by us? Why is this post making it sound like the students overwhelmingly told the school “let’s abandon the South Koreans?”

I wrote a letter to our Dean strongly saying that we do not go. But the dean, as he had said, made this decision on his own, and for the sake of the school.

4) my South Korean friends actually advocated for us to go. In fact, when I talked to them, and saying that I don’t want to go anymore, they were the ones comforting me.

I believe it very unfair for the public opinions to condemn the student bodies who wants to go on an exciting tour. We are also very disappointed with our administration for handling this so poorly. But how is this the student’s fault? Are we supposed to just quit school, skip classes and protest? How is that productive in any ways? The only shame should be placed on the administration for handling this badly.

October 29, 2019 at 03:36 PM · Perhaps remove and don't replace is the appropriate solution for this situation. Leave their chairs empty in the midst of the orchestra. Let other members covers parts as needed. These are top notch students. They can do that! Don't fill the empty chairs with other students. Let the world and China see that the ensemble's membership is less than it should be due to China's decision. Then show them how our next generation of professional musicians deals with challenging circumstances!

October 29, 2019 at 03:36 PM · "Might the tour to some extent be saved ethically by programming music with an explicit message in favour of rights and democracy, and outspokenly critical of tyranny and state control?"

They could pull together Eroica or Egmont. But such efforts seem petty and misguided, and won't "save the tour ethically." It's like smiling to an abusive boss, and giving him the finger...behind your back.

No one, including our sports teams and tech behemoths, are willing to stand up to China and its self-appointed president-for-life. In the end, China will get what it wants. And so will Eastman. Consumers have become hooked on cheap Chinese imports, and the conservatories are, likewise, hooked on Asian talent.

October 29, 2019 at 04:03 PM · The US is largely a world where activism doesn't go past people's screens. Any thoughtful organization that is intent on preparing young people for being moral actors, like, say, a University, should be staying the hell out of China on account of their ongoing genocide against the Uighurs alone, not to mention their suppression in Hong Kong, their aggression in the South China Sea, their internal human rights abuses targeting artists and any dissenters, and on and on and on.

Eastman clearly knows who butters its bread, and this tour is what we might call a "loss leader", to market to a lot of potential Chinese students, which is fine if your concept is that they will be oh so free over here and be impregnated with the seed of liberty, only to return to China to make it a better place, but that also entails that you start with a backbone at some point in the future.

It's like Eastman taking its orchestral tour to Germany in 1938 - What issue could anyone have with that?

October 29, 2019 at 04:15 PM · There is no moral ambiguity here. Once China refused to allow the Korean members to join the tour should have been canceled.

October 29, 2019 at 04:54 PM · All right. I'm convinced. It's a bad idea.

October 29, 2019 at 05:10 PM · Base on what Christian said, then let me see...

US has fantastic history in human right record. To name one, we can look at those who held without charge, without lawyer and get tortured at Guantanamo. Unlike the Chinese, US will never get their hand stains to involve in something like a genocide. Well, My Lai Massacre will never make it to US history book so why bother? Dumping the Kurds at Syria to their own device is definite not a moral issue. Starting war at Iraq is not considered to be aggression, but justice, even for all these years WMD were not found. NSA spying US citizen is ok, while other countries do that it is dictatorship. Julian Assange is a dissenters, then what? Let's see how nice the US government will be to him? China is aggressive at South China Sea. US is NOT aggressive but have military bases all over the world and ready to strike.

On purely moral ground, what education organisation should take money from US government?

Of course we should all get US government money, and learn to see evil ONLY when other people commit it, not us.

October 29, 2019 at 05:56 PM · Under the current U.S. administration, there has been a huge crackdown on visas for foreign musicians. Many reports of concerts not able to go on because the pianist, cellist, violinist, whatever could not obtain a visa.

Here's a story about a Japanese taiko drumming group that could not obtain visas after 9 months of paperwork to no avail: https://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/2019/07/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-denied-visas-to-foreign-musicians-for-pa-tour-in-the-end-no-one-wins.html

October 29, 2019 at 06:02 PM · Thank you for opining this way. I agree. Shameful.

October 29, 2019 at 06:07 PM · Hear hear, Sivrit! I totally agree with your characterization of the failings of the existing and past US regimes.

If you see the US throwing its weight around as a reason for the Chinese to build fake islands to try and take territory from the Philippines and bully the Philippine fishing industry in their own waters, or any number of things the Chinese government is doing, then I'm not sure what your argument relies on except it would seem to be thoughtlessly supporting the Chinese government's abuses in the name of some kind of absurd moral relativism.

There is plenty of amends for the US to make across the world, but we were talking about China, which you seem to be defending. Do you support the systemic rape, murder and erasure of Uighur culture that is CURRENTLY happening? I'd be curious about your apologia in that case.

October 29, 2019 at 06:16 PM · Paul & Scott, I see the points you make. It's a quandary, and quite depressing.

October 29, 2019 at 06:19 PM · This article does not present the facts accurately. There was never a vote among the students. Eastman did not „decide to remove“ the Korean students as such-that was decided for them, by the Chinese government, even after the Dean did everything in his power to sort the situation out (including working with US authorities). What Eastman did decide to do was go on the tour and let the rest of the young students in the orchestra experience China. Eastman’s deciding not to go would have had no effect whatsoever on what is a possibly intractable political situation. It simply would have prevented (even more) students from going to China. Not going as a form of protest is not an action with any sort of potential to convince Beijing to right its wrongs or alter US foreign policy-this just isn’t on that level.

October 29, 2019 at 06:25 PM · Hard to believe there’s not been more outcry about this situation yet. Last I knew we, as a country, regardless of our history of despicable acts, philosophically stand in solidarity with populations who are being discriminated against, regardless of the reason. Here we have a major U.S. conservatory evading an opportunity to make a statement of what are supposed to be our core values AS AMERICANS.

Jamal Rossi is wrong to say that questions of money aren’t wrapped up in this decision. Eastman is connected to a huge university, a large proportion of whose full-tuition-paying students are from China. But do we need to pander to a country that has decided to discriminate against South Koreans: OUR South Koreans?

This decision is just morally wrong. It sets the worst kind of example for all the young people involved. Eastman should stand up to the Chinese and tell them they’ll send an orchestra there when ALL it’s members are welcome.

Karen Hagberg, PhD, Eastman 1978

October 29, 2019 at 07:00 PM · To suggest that Eastman would not profit from this tour is disingenuous. Recruiting top string talent is the ultimate goal of any legitimate music program, and China has long been considered the holy grail of recruiting for American music colleges (look no further than “Juilliard in China”). Eastman clearly sees long-term profit in continuing their relationship with China, and has acted accordingly. I feel badly for all involved, including the dean.

October 29, 2019 at 07:24 PM · Is it not true that the South Korean students cannot get *work visas* for the tour because Eastman is charging admission for the concerts? Could they not otherwise enter the country? Why then does Eastman not offer the concerts as free performances and include their South Korean students as rightful members of the orchestra? I find it very difficult to believe that whatever paltry amount is going to be raised by ticket sales in China could possibly outweigh the amount of bad press Eastman is rightfully getting, and that's leaving the obvious moral issue entirely out of it.

October 29, 2019 at 07:55 PM · Picking your battles to have your voice heard and your presence (or absence) matter. This is a case where the orchestra can have more of an impact if they are seen and heard. If they choose not to go, there not being there would go unnoticed. The Chinese could find worthy orchestras that would go in Eastman's stead, without missing a beat.

A true statement that would matter would be something like leaving the seats of the missing Korean students empty during the performance. If there is an oboe solo, there would be a moment of silence. If they are doing Scheherazade, there would be strange accompaniment without melody.

Being absent is futile acceptance of the status quo.

October 29, 2019 at 08:18 PM · --Cleveland Orchestra. C'mon man...

October 29, 2019 at 08:19 PM · "US has fantastic history in human right record..."

I was waiting for someone to chime in with "well, the US isn't exactly the model for moral behavior either..."

And I'm not disagreeing--many of our policies, including Guantanamo and the way we've been separating families on the border aren't defensible.

HOWEVER....that doesn't excuse China's policies and tactics. They will succeed in instituting a Korean ban, while the current administration's attempted Muslim band fell flat in the courts and with the public and was ultimately unsuccessful. That's the difference--we have a sliver of hope of doing the right thing.

China has gotten better at preventing it.

October 29, 2019 at 08:21 PM · To the Eastman student who posted anonymously, what you say squares with what has come through the rumor mill; however, the school told reporters you voted to go ahead with the tour. I have to believe the well-sourced ABC article, which included student interviews, over rumors or anonymous internet posts.

The school should have protected you from all this by cancelling the tour. I am sorry they didn't, but to be honest, I agree with the interpretation that you wanted to go ahead; it sounds like you are still "excited" to go and just want the dean to get all the blame.

If you feel this is unfair and damaging to your reputation, you need to organize and take action as a group to correct it. If it is not true that you voted at all like one of you claims, you can go to the local news and request a correction, though if at the end of the day you still go on the tour I think that will change few minds.

October 29, 2019 at 08:42 PM · "Discrimination in any form and for any reason is abhorrent to me, personally.." (from Jamal Rossi's statement.) This is typically how statements begin, before the writer proceeds to confirm that he is going to support discrimination. It is terrible to go ahead with the tour. It is no excuse to say that no one has a perfect human rights record, or to point out that we all support China in some way anyway. (Many of us play on Chinese instruments and use other Chinese products.)

The point is that in this particular case, China has posed a simple question: no South Koreans, or no tour. That should be a simple question to answer.

October 29, 2019 at 08:47 PM · In the original post: "By bowing to Chinese demands and enabling them to dictate exclusion on the basis of nationality in their orchestra..."


First of all, the Chinese never demanded Eastman to remove the Korean students. The visa ban has been in place since 2016 due to a political spat (between China and US, with South Korea being an unfortunate pawn). It's the school that scheduled the tour and made the decision to go, and the students who voted two to one to go without their peers.

In addition, discrimination based on nationality is simply not the same as racial or sexual discrimination. Every country in the world gets to decide who they will let in. Lots of folks are denied visa at embassies and consulates all around the world and denied entry at US customs and borders every single day. We even have a green card lottery based on nationality.

Please make the distinction between the communist party and China itself (or the general Chinese public). What's happening in Xinjiang is absolutely shameful. But for me, a student orchestra visiting another country, leaving out a couple of members who cannot get visas, is not an earth-shattering moral dilemma.

October 29, 2019 at 09:04 PM · How is it not the same as racial or sexual discrimination? Can you change where you are born?

October 29, 2019 at 09:20 PM · Scott Cole,

the Trump administration’s ban on travel from 5 predominantly Musilim countries is in effect. They lost a few rounds in the courts, but eventually won, unfortunately.

I don’t normally encourage viewing Fox News coverage, but I don’t see any reason not to trust them on this issue: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-travel-ban-30000-people-blocked-muslim-state-department

October 29, 2019 at 09:25 PM · Just boo!!!

October 29, 2019 at 09:27 PM · I am not equating discrimination with bigotry here. There are rules and processes that distinguish people of different nationality. If you are born in the US, you can come and go as you please. But if you are not a citizen, it's a lot harder (often impossible) for you to visit or immigrate here. Is that fair? I don't know, but I would never equate that as racial or sexual discrimination.

October 29, 2019 at 09:38 PM · Scott wrote, "...while the current administration's attempted Muslim ban fell flat in the courts." But the ban lives on in Presidential Proclamation 9645, which was affirmed by SCOTUS on a 7-2 vote and is still in full force, as far as I know. Trump made it palatable by including Venezuela and North Korea on the list of countries from which immigration is banned.

I don't think Sivrit was defending the Chinese. But it is harder to point fingers at another government when one's own affairs and policies are so questionable -- and worsening by the day.

October 29, 2019 at 09:59 PM · Shame on Eastman! The Korean Students (or any Student) is more important than a tour.

October 29, 2019 at 10:20 PM · Will this post be edited to reflect or include the primary resources that contradict it?

October 29, 2019 at 10:59 PM · The idea that the Korean students were in the minority is not a great reason to come up with a plan that, by its nature, leaves them out.

October 30, 2019 at 12:06 AM · According to Eastman's site:


"The Eastman School of Music seeks to create an experience that is musically, socially, and intellectually diverse, and to foster a community of musicians of diverse backgrounds and origins.

Creating and encouraging an inclusive community enriches the musical and academic life of our students, our faculty, our immediate community and the world of music at large."

I guess the leadership's action just contradicted their own university statement. People like Rossi, can always justify whatever they want to justify. Question is, whose moral compass are you going to follow?

October 30, 2019 at 12:15 AM · This post should be updated to note the fact that the tour was just postponed by Dean Rossi ~ Current ESM student

October 30, 2019 at 12:19 AM · Let's see. Orchestra excels musically by the personnel who auditioned and made it. The Korean students are forced out. The orchestra now makes up for the exclusions. So ESM for whatever reason sacrifices its standards for what?

October 30, 2019 at 12:54 AM · Just learned that Jamal Rossi has done the right thing. Tour postponed until such time as all orchestra members are invited. I feel much better!

October 30, 2019 at 01:26 AM · As a Korean-American and former band student (for 7+ years), this is absolutely disgusting on Eastman's part. The visa is politically motivated as I have plenty of Korean coworkers who have had no issue getting visas to visit China for work. And for Eastman to bow down to that is, whether they intend to or not, a political acquiescence to the Chinese government. We're not talking about this orchestra IMMIGRATING to China. We're talking students going on an international tour, part of which, if memory serves me correctly, is lauded as part cultural exchange and part musical experience. For the rest of the students to enrich themselves and themselves only at the expense of a minority is additional confirmation of discrimination against the students.

October 30, 2019 at 01:49 AM · The tour has been canceled! https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/NY-band-cancels-China-tour-over-ban-of-South-14572712.php

October 30, 2019 at 01:51 AM · Calm the hell down everybody. Eastman has already announced that they've changed their minds (for now) and are postponing the tour until they can get the proper visas for all students.

Armchair quarterback much? Seriously, you all need to calm the heck down. If you feel strongly about it, write a letter to Eastman. Everybody knows nothing is solved in the comment section of a web article.

October 30, 2019 at 01:53 AM · Joseph, thanks for the post. I'm a parent of UR and write about human rights and rule of law in China. Do you have any idea why exactly all the Korean students were denied visa by the Chinese Consulate in New York? The theories proposed by a couple of comments here don't make sense to me. When was the last Eastman tour to China? Were there Korean students in it?

I don't know if you all are aware of the recent "controversies" on the UR campus regarding an event involving Tibetan monks and an event that discussed the Uighur concentration camps in Northwestern China. The organizer of both events is a Korean-American graduate students. I wonder if the Chinese Consulate blacklisted Korean students as a vendetta, and more importantly, as a warning to the university: This is what happens if you are having more of these events...

I know my speculation is kind of wild. It's wild only because it's egregious if true; but it's not so wild at all if you know the CCP.

Have no doubt whatsoever that China has a grip on the University: 800-1,000 of its 5,000 students are from PRC. Do the math. Most American universities tend to defer to China's demands, and accept its bullying, these days for the sake of protecting their China revenues.

I would check back to see more comments and information. Thank you.

October 30, 2019 at 02:02 AM · Agree with Ben David. Also, an Eastman alumnus said it well:


“...we have a responsibility beyond merely providing unforgettable experiences to students and help guide and teach them INTEGRITY. As teachers, we have an immense responsibility to our students, part of which is teaching them to stand up for their convictions and to do what is right and honorable. What students in the Eastman Philharmonia are learning from this debacle is that the interests and integrity of three students are worth sacrificing for the sake of 80 other students who now seem far more privileged than their South Korean peers. An ensemble is a team, if not a family. If one student in the Philharmonia cannot attend the tour because of who they are and how a government sees them, then NO STUDENT IN THE PHILHARMONIA SHOULD ATTEND. That this was ever up for discussion is stupefying and, frankly, repugnant, and speaks ill for the values Eastman espouses.”

October 30, 2019 at 02:29 AM · They have changed their minds. Must have taken a lot of heat so they have decided to cancel the tour.


October 30, 2019 at 02:32 AM · There is a space between the absolutism of a moral compass and the utilitarian measure called the bottom line. Leadership balances the two in order to have a reasonable outcome. I think the school achieved an acceptable balance between the two extremes.

October 30, 2019 at 02:46 AM · Literally Band (banned pun) in China like the south park episode.

I guess Eastman School isn't as prestigious as we all once thought. Won't even stand up for it's students.

You can see where their priorities lay.

October 30, 2019 at 02:54 AM · Most decisions are choices between not very good and much worse. This is not such a decision. No one is going to die if this tour is cancelled.

Personally I think that the right solution to this sort of bullying and intimidation is to expel Eastman students from the PRC and cancel the tour.

I call upon all US orchestras to deny auditions to any potential auditioner from the PRC who does not hold a US passport.

October 30, 2019 at 03:16 AM · Corwin, I feel that's a bit extreme in the other direction. The PRC is doing a bad thing here, but US institutions should not behave badly to retaliate, nor would that be in the spirit of the art. We simply shouldn't be rewarding China by letting them book ensembles while demanding the exclusion of certain members.

October 30, 2019 at 03:38 AM · It isn't about "profit", just money in general. At first I was disturbed that the trip seemed to have been planned without any forethought. With six years in as dean, however, it is clear he knows how to play the univer$ity game. There was no forethought because the trip was a given, most likely priscribed. I read no explanation in his letter as to why China was chosen, even though the visa issue wasn't new, nor any suggestion that this would affect future consideration to tour China.

October 30, 2019 at 03:41 AM · The Eastman orchestra could have protested China's xenophobic conditions by changing the tour destination to South Korea. What a missed opportunity.

October 30, 2019 at 04:16 AM · I invite anyone to post their links to primary information or stories that contradict anything in the above story. I do not see anything in the story that contradicts official reports.

Some of the comments to this story make it sound like there is a dispute about whether the students voted. Here's what we have:

  • This news story states that "After several meetings, the members of the ensemble voted two-to-one in favor of going."
  • An anonymous poster in this comment section said "There was never a vote among the students."
  • But then another anonymous poster who said he/she was from Eastman said "most of my colleagues whom I talked to voted for not going to the tour..." indicating there was a vote.
So the most credible information we have points to a vote having happened.

October 30, 2019 at 04:25 AM · Hard to believe that the decision has been made to cut the Korean players from the tour. Nothing to do with China is on a level playing field!

Contacting the New York Times and others is the path of character for Eastman. Cancel the whole trip….these are students who are part of an Arts Organization…China loves having Western Masters and such come to their country. Negative Press might encourage the Chinese to reconsider their decision.

Western performers have some ego driven desire to go to “China”….why not visit some country with a similar culture, one that welcomes young musicians regardless of the ethnicity .

Disappointing to hear, I know. But, as in sports….it’s about the team, all of the team or none of the team.

Charles Avsharian

CEO Shar Music Company

October 30, 2019 at 04:40 AM · News Flash from NBC news. Tour has been cancelled


October 30, 2019 at 05:13 AM · Here is our Violinist.com story about the reversal.

October 30, 2019 at 05:36 AM · To those commenters unhappy about the characterization of the student vote, from the NBC article it appears Rossi is at least one of the sources telling reporters students supported going forward 2-to-1. If this is untrue, I encourage you to reach out to the press. You can request to remain anonymous and reporters will respect that.

October 30, 2019 at 07:39 AM · It is nice to see the Eastman students put some colour to what happening instead of just all our internet stranger speculating.

@Christian Lesniak

"There is plenty of amends for the US to make across the world"? Really? All you did is forget about what you did and talk about other countries.

And no, I am not defending China, and my last post has only point out what US did. I speak about the US. I am particularly interested since you are speaking about moral. With your word, then tell me how "Any thoughtful organisation that is intent on preparing young people for being moral actors, like, say, a University", even if they are in US, can take money from the US government.

Obviously, you have been turning a blind eye on your government's ill and hope it will amend itself by sheer wishful thinking.

Thank you for mentioning about Philippine. So after all these "bullying" from China, one would bet Philippine will side with US to defend themselves, right? Since you want me to side with China so much, then I help you to fuel this fantasy by showing this part of the speech from Philippine president (from media on their own country) back in 2016.


October 30, 2019 at 07:44 AM · and this one,


Out of the whole world, frankly I am surprised you choose Philippine to talk about.

October 30, 2019 at 11:02 AM · This whole thing is sad. I’ve spent considerable time working in China. People in China love classical music. This is about geopolitics. South Korea at American request installed missiles in their country. Nothing to do with these kids. It’s also not racial or ethnic discrimination. With our trauma of racial discrimination as Americans we tend to default to that assumption. Koreans are the same ethnically as Northern Chinese. There are a ton of Korean restaurants in Shanghai I’ve visited. Back in the Cold War, Soviet and American musicians and orchestras still interacted. Musicians and artists can be a powerful bridge for peace and mutual understanding. Unless you are a conspiracy nut, it’s obvious to me America is not out to destroy China. We are trying to reach a trade agreement! We should have confidence to engage as artists and leave the flag waving, virtue signalling, nationalism to politicians.

October 30, 2019 at 04:03 PM · Jesus, Sivrit, way to miss the point. Again, with the moral relativism. I don't give a damn about Rodrigo Duterte's crimes as a representation of why Phillippino fisherman should get bullied out of their livelihoods by an imperial power on the ascent. I'm not going to bother clicking a link that I clearly am not going to agree with in order to prove some kind of point you are making.

To go on a concert tour in China is to do business with the Chinese Government, and to agree to their terms and their fantasy view of propaganda. There are public universities in the US that are allowed to criticize the US government while taking public funds. I don't see that as a moral failure. This is not a question of moral perfection and operating your music school on some utopian commune platform in the middle of the ocean. This is a question of being able to make a concrete choice that either supports or opposes clearly defined human-rights abuses.

It's the same nonsense that kept the US from getting involved in WW2 until Pearl Harbor. How hard is it to not collaborate with an abusive regime and agree with their propaganda? There is still hope in the US that people can work within the system, but there is no working within the system in China. You are delusional.

October 30, 2019 at 04:16 PM · Why not just to go So. Korea or Taiwan instead?!

October 30, 2019 at 05:48 PM · "This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically 'woke' and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids. And share certain things with you."

-- Barack Obama (former US President and 2009 Nobel Laureate in Peace)

October 30, 2019 at 08:41 PM · . The way to defang a bully is to stand up to him. Americans cower and wring hands. It just encourages the bully. What if China said no whites will get visas. All I can imagine is how Americans would bend over backwards to justify it. Not only is it sick and depressing but this kind of cowardice leads to overreach and then war eventually.

October 30, 2019 at 09:05 PM · I think the difference for musicians is rubbing a sheep's guts with a horse's asshair is not "doing really good stuff" all by itself, it needs to stand for something to have any value. If Eastman could give children health insurance by selling out their Korean students that would be a different matter.

Whether you're a cynnic who wants to reign in China or an idealist concerned about equality, cancelling the tour is the only right answer.

October 30, 2019 at 11:02 PM · As the grandmother of two children living in S Korea who are both Korean and American citizens, I find the conduct of the students who opted to leave their fellow artists behind deplorable. The orchestra is a team with multiple parts that play together to make a production. “All for one and one for all.” Also, Korea has historically been dominated by China and Japan through history so there is a psychological element to this.

October 31, 2019 at 12:30 AM · I'm glad the tour has been cancelled. Being rerouted to S. Korea would have worked for me too. I don't understand how it came to be a dilemma in the first place. The ban against S. Korean artists was in effect long before planning for the type started, so not accepting the tour invitation should have been obvious right from the beginning. (Even worse is if ESM sought out the China tour.) Having decided that there weren't other countries just as capable of a cultural and educational exchange, they could have excluded S. Korean students from the auditions or acceptance into the ensemble (repugnant to me at a basic level, but slightly better than excluding ACTUAL MEMBERS). ESM's lack of planning, leadership, or integrity, have certainly impressed me enough to not only never advise a prospective student but to outright discourage a family from considering ESM. So what if they've had a great reputation from the past if they can't make decent decisions in the present? This shameful mark will be hard to erase, at least in my mind.

October 31, 2019 at 01:41 PM · I don't believe for a second that the reason for the three Korean students being denied visa has anything to do with THAAD deployment. China's MFA spokesman said on Wednesday that there is no such thing as a THAAD visa ban, and that the Eastman rejection is an "isolated visa case." He said that in 2018 alone over 4 million South Koreans visited China. For once, I agree with the MFA spokesman! The Eastman incident does seem isolated because if there is such a ban in place for over three years, we would have heard a lot of similar incidents, but have you heard any? https://twitter.com/VOAChinese/status/1189647674124845056

Indeed, as some of the comments pointed out: a tour like this is planned months and months ago, and if there is such a ban, the Chinese Consulate in New York, the issuer of the visas, would have notified UR from the start. But the school was not notified until late September, according to Mr. Rossi.

So my question is: why are the Korean students at UR singled out?

Consider the sequence of the following events on UR campus:

On Sept 21, an event about Tibet took place on campus to the strong and ugly objection of some Chinese students; https://t.co/cDN7cRjk4R?amp=1

In late Sept Chinese Consulate in New York notified UR of the visa denial;

On Oct 26, an event took place on campus to discuss the Uighur concentration camps in northwestern China while the University worked to obtain visa for the 3 students in October.

I believe the visa denial has to do with the fact that these events took place on campus, and that the organizer of these events happened to be a Korean-American whom some Chinese students took as a student from South Korea. Being a close observer of China influence on American campuses for years, I believe China is taking out on UR for not stopping these events, just as China retaliated University of California, San Diego, for bringing Dalai Lama to campus by stopping Chinese students from going there, just as China punished Norway government (even Norwegian salmon farmers) for not stopping the Nobel Committee giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. There is a pattern here.

The University knows the truth, but I doubt it will ever share it with the community. The university is fearful that it will lose Chinese students who bring big revenue to the university.

American universities need some soul searching. And it's about time.

Finally, as a UR parent, I want to applaud the Eastman Music School for coming around to doing the right thing.

October 31, 2019 at 04:19 PM · 108, you may be right about the University of Rochester activities sticking in the craw of the PRC. But do you know what were the categories of the visas the S. Koreans you mention received from China? It could also be that PRC will not grant work visas, but might grant tourist visas.

As a US passport holder who has received a bunch of different types of visas for travel to India--tourist, student, researcher-- I can tell you there are vastly different levels of scrutiny for each type. I'm not that outraged about the PRC's denial. Seems that a sovereign country has a right to decide who to let in and for what purposes. (As least they didn't make them take an AIDS test as a precondition, as did India for foreigners wishing to stay longer than three months). However, Eastman should have known in advance that S. Koreans were very likely to have been excluded. I see Eastman as providing a career opportunity that discriminated against students based on nationality.

October 31, 2019 at 08:50 PM · Hi Jocelyn, according to the Dean, the orchestra is on work visa to China. Tens of thousands of South Koreans work in China. Since you asked, I'm going to contact the South Korean Embassy in Beijing asking whether South Koreans are having trouble getting work visa from China. I doubt the answer is yes, if you have some idea of the scope of Korean economic activities in China. If there has been such a ban, it would have been all over in the news.

November 1, 2019 at 09:55 PM · Well, this is getting to be more interesting and intriguing. Can members of the Eastman Music School seek an explanation from your school? According to Duowei website, “On Nov 1, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that, as of now, Chinese Consulate in New York has never received visa applications for the Korean musicians. Therefore there is no such thing as 'visa rejection.'"


November 2, 2019 at 04:34 PM · A few years ago, I was the first American professor of music at a Mainland Chinese university. So, I can state with near certainty the Chinese government paid for little or no part of that tour. In almost all related scenarios, Chinese universities provide housing (all major Chinese universities have their own hotel), and (after some vetting) the educational group is largely subsidized by US Consulates, with the rest coming from students or the American university. There are rarely any ticket sales per se. Nearly 100% of the time, Chinese concert goers are selected and bussed into the venue, and if the performing group does not appear, busses don't come and audience members go about their business. City venues (that are fully staffed but usually empty) have agreements with universities, and organizing teams are trained as part of their jobs to stage fast turnaround shows (some with only 24 hours notice). Therefore, no one on the Mainland goes to any kind of special trouble to stage an event showcasing foreigners. As for the South Korean exclusions, I find it unfathomable that a red flag did not surface immediately.So, I am confident no one at Eastman sought to investigate 2016 exclusionary policy, meaning that if an orchestra had South Korean members, a tour of China should never have been scheduled in the first place.

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