Musicians often refer to their instruments as ‘extensions of their body’. While this may sound like something from Pseud’s Corner, the attachment is understandable, given the amount of time an instrumentalist spends with their equipment.
Like any professional whose work relies on a particular tool, musicians often find it stressful to be separated from their kit. I once interviewed a violinist who took her fiddle into the toilet cubicle with her, despite offers from myself and her publicist to babysit it in her brief absence. But then, when the violin in question is a Stradivarius worth thousands – if not millions – of pounds, I wouldn’t let it out of my sight, either.
Used @HeathrowAirport business parking this morning – told musical instruments are not allowed on bus…not best start on trip to Toronto!
— Carducci Quartet (@CarducciQuartet) November 15, 2017
The practicalities of life as a jobbing musician mean that instrumentalists travel regularly. Although some airlines, such as easyJet, have adopted ‘musician-friendly’ rules – in part down to a lively campaign led by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – others remain inflexible. British Airways is the latest carrier to become embroiled in the debate after recently changing the wording of its hand baggage policy to appear to no longer guarantee that instruments such as violins and guitars can be placed in overhead lockers inside the cabin. The company has since agreed to review the detail, in conversation with the ISM.
When the violin in question is a Stradivarius worth thousands – if not millions – of pounds, I wouldn’t let it out of my sight, either.
The fun begins before musicians even reach the check-in desk, though: this week, the Carducci Quartet tweeted that they had been told their instruments were not allowed on the Heathrow airport bus. (Sidenote: singers don’t get away unscathed from travelling, as depicted via memes of sopranos wearing over-sized scarfs, and keyboardists tend to get what they’re given, which varies hugely depending on the venue.)