Cellist's Bow is Damaged in Airport Mishap

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 12:00 PM

Alban Gerhardt's damaged cello bow in its case Alban Gerhardt's damaged cello bow in its case

It’s been a bumpy ride recently for cellists traveling with their instruments.

Alban Gerhardt, a noted German cello soloist, said Tuesday that his precious cello bow, valued at $20,000, was damaged by inspectors from the Transportation Security Administration at Washington's Dulles Airport on Feb. 6.

The bow, which Gerhardt normally checks in a travel case along with the instrument, arrived in Chicago snapped in half, and possibly damaged beyond repair. The cellist believes the damage was caused by careless security staff. “My bow must have moved out of its cover, and instead of putting it back in, they just slammed the case shut and broke the bow that way over the bridge,” he said in an interview.

Gerhardt’s ordeal began during a trip from Berlin to Madison, WI, where he was scheduled to perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. After checking the instrument in Berlin, he retrieved it in Washington as he passed through customs. He then rechecked the instrument, and only discovered the damage upon arriving at O'Hare, along with an inspection notice from the TSA. He has filed a claim with the agency.

In an e-mail, TSA spokesman Lisa Farbstein said the agency "takes the issue of claims very seriously," adding, "it truly is a shame about Mr. Gerhardt’s bow. I recommend that he file a claim to our Claims Management Branch for their review and adjudication. I would encourage him to file the claim as soon as possible with his flight information so that the airport might be able to retrieve any potential videotape of his case being opened."

The Strad magazine first reported the incident on its website on Monday.

The bow was made by the 19th-century German maker Heinrich Knopf. Gerhardt, who is flying home on Tuesday night after a brief stopover in New York, purchased it in 2001. He said he plans to take the snapped bow to a luthier in Berlin, although the odds of a repair appear to be slight.

Gerhardt added in an e-mail that he has been traveling internationally since 1990, "almost never buying a second seat for my cello and nothing ever happened.” He says he is now considering buying a ticket for it instead of checking it in the baggage hold.

The incident in the latest in a series of reports of expensive string instruments being subjected to rough treatment from security and baggage handlers as well as restrictive new airline policies.

The TSA's Farbstein said the agency is in the process of installing more surveillance cameras in baggage screening areas that are not open to public view. It is also adding new systems that will reduce the need for physical inspections.


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Comments [8]

It was long the goal of those who control Western societies to make air travel as controlled and as invasive as possible - that is, to make it conform to the totalitarian Israeli model. They got their wish via the 9/11 "terrorist" attack. Since the rights and welfare of non-elite human beings are of no importance to our masters, why would they have the least concern for a mere cello bow, especially a bow carried by someone not among the chosen few?

It's no secret either that TSA employees are frequently immigrants from the Third World, more often than not of gravely dubious legality. They have been chosen for these positions specifically for their hostility to native Americans and Europeans. It's ludicrous to expect that people who are simply doing what their employer wishes them to do will ever suffer reprisals for their actions.

Jul. 13 2015 12:45 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Somehow this bit of news was missed by the Q and its NPR cousin. I wonder how that could have happened.

Gustavo Dudamel was detained by Israeli authorities, reports say -


Of course there's no place to note this omission, with the most likely place left being this bit about national abuse of power in the name of national defense.

As a Russian comedian might say, 'What a web site!'

Oh, I'm very much pro Israel, just not at the heel clicking level.

Feb. 21 2013 08:31 PM
Alan from Montreal

I really do not understand why was the cello case checked in. Why would you do that? I travel with a cello all the time and I have never checked in my cello. I always buy a seat for it. How sad

Feb. 17 2013 10:24 AM
Ethan from NYC

My friends and I call this "first world problems". I mean, what does the guy expect? The guy plays an instrument for a living, boards a jet and gets to criss cross the freaking globe on a regular basis so he can play his box of wood for equally pretentious crowds, and he now has the audacity to claim himself a victim of a careless TSA agent??? God forbid his cello or his bow don't get off the plane in one piece.

Welcome to the world of the living buddy, where things don't always go as planned. Grow a set of balls, thank the Gods for letting you get off that plane without injury and without being victim to a terrorist attack, and buy yourself a new bow.

Feb. 14 2013 11:36 AM

The Thieves and Sexual Assailants are a criminal organization. When they show no more respect for human beings than to grope little girls and grandmothers, OF COURSE they will vandalize priceless instruments.

Feb. 14 2013 05:58 AM
Gary from Dallas TX

TSA=the Gestapo of our time. It's not like he can just go out and find another bow of this caliber. I'm a frequent international traveler and this problem is reflective of the current American lack of regard for others property, etc. I've had TSA try to throw away a plastic bag in my carryon at DFW airport that contained my insulin (in the box, complete with prescription number), syringes, etc that even contained a prescription/order from my doctor giving medical necessity to travel with these items in my carryon. The TSA personnel didn't give respect to the doctor's order or me the passenger. I can only think what this poor cellist now regards his experience of travel to the US. I only hope his claim is investigated to the point that the TSA person responsible is suitably punished for this senseless damage.

Feb. 13 2013 11:44 AM

The TSA is the mishap, and they're at every airport.
Please ship your instruments FEDEX if you must fly.
I hope Mr. Gerhardt is compensated fully and without issue.

Feb. 12 2013 10:20 PM
Scott Spiegler

As a cellist myself who has never taken his cello on an airplane, all I can say is a very big *OUCH* to Mr. Gerhardt and let me know that I am truly sorry! :(

Feb. 12 2013 02:00 PM

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