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Amtrak Charging for Cellos? - by Paul Katz

Amtrak Charging for Cellos? – by Paul Katz

Amtrak Charging for Cellos? – by Paul Katz

The joys of a musical touring career continue! An Amtrak official recently stopped me from boarding a train to Boston in New York’s Penn Station, telling me that I must buy a seat for my cello!” I’ve been traveling Amtrak for 50 years and never once have I had to pay for the cello,” I protested. “I don’t make the rules, and I don’t know what trains you’ve been riding, but it’s on our website, so there is no way you can get on until you get a ticket.” The train was leaving in 15 minutes, so what the hell – furious and furiously, I ran to the ticket window and bought a second seat!

But later I checked Amtrak’s website and discovered (buried in a long list of Special Items), that cellos travel free – well, sort of – they can be carried on in lieu of a piece of baggage, and are subject to a $10 “service fee.” (Who knows what “service” we get, but even if it’s enforced, it’s a lot cheaper than a full fare.) Passengers are allowed two pieces of baggage – so you can bring one piece of baggage plus your cello. You will find cellos specifically mentioned as a Medium-Sized Musical Instrument that “may be transported free of charge.” I suggest everyone print this document and carry it when traveling on Amtrak. You might as well first try boarding with a pleasant smile, as I believe the provision is only sporadically enforced, and you may save yourself $10. But in case you are stopped, allow a little extra time for arguing, and for returning to the ticket window in the event that you lose!

Also, while perusing the Special Items page, I was relieved and gratified to learn that Amtrak does not allow firearms to be carried on board (but you can check 50 lbs of guns and ammo in baggage, at no service charge)! Most of us, I hope, will not be using that free service, and the $10 to keep our instrument with us is not too onerous. But as trains, planes, customs and travel in general are becoming increasingly problematic for musicians with instruments, I recommend traveling armed with a folder of documents for self-protection. Print out the Amtrak regulation – neither I nor the Amtrak officials were properly informed and Amtrak charged me a full fare for the cello.

When traveling by air, carry the FAA guidelines which specifically allow for musical instruments in the cabins of aircraft.

Several instruments have been confiscated by airport customs officials in Europe recently; CelloBello will soon be posting a blog on this topic with more information. When crossing borders, be prepared and have proof of ownership papers for your instrument. Our research tells us that it may now be helpful, perhaps necessary, to obtain an ATA Carnet, also known as the Merchandise Passport, which is an international customs document that expedites temporary imports (such as musical instruments) into foreign countries.

You never know which travel official may be waiting for you with a new regulation, so travel well-armed with the proper documents in case of a surprise attack!

About the Author:

Paul Katz

Paul Katz is known to concertgoers the world over as cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, which during an international career of 26 years made more than 2500 appearances on four continents, in all of the music capitals, great concert halls and music festivals of the world. As a member of this celebrated ensemble from 1969-1995, he performed at the White House and on many television shows including “CBS Sunday Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show,” “The Grammy Awards” (in 1973, the first classical musicians ever to appear on that show,) and was seen in “In The Mainstream: The Cleveland Quartet,” a one hour documentary televised across the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Katz has received many honors, including the American String Teacher’s Association “Artist-Teacher of the Year 2003;” Indiana University’s “Chevalier du Violoncelle,” awarded for distinguished achievements and contributions to the world of cello playing and teaching; Chamber Music America’s highest honor, The Richard M. Bogomolny National Service Award, awarded for a lifetime of distinguished service in the field of chamber music; and an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts from Albright College. Mr. Katz served for six years as President of Chamber Music America, the national service organization in the United States that has in its membership virtually all of the country’s 600 professional chamber music ensembles, as well as hundreds of presenting organizations, music festivals and managers. As an author, he has appeared in numerous publications and wrote the liner notes for the Cleveland Quartet’s three-volume set of the complete Beethoven Quartets on RCA Red Seal.

Mr. Katz has appeared as soloist in New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities throughout North America. He was a student of Gregor Piatigorsky, Janos Starker, Bernard Greenhouse, Gabor Rejto and Leonard Rose. In 1962 he was selected nationally to play in the historic Pablo Casals Master Class in Berkeley, California and was a prizewinner in the Munich and Geneva Competitions. Of special interest to cellists are his recordings of the Dohnanyi Cello Sonata for ProArte Records and the Cleveland Quartet’s recording on Sony Classical of the Schubert two-cello quintet with Yo-Yo Ma. The Cleveland Quartet has nearly 70 recordings to its credit on RCA Victor, Telarc International, Sony, Philips and ProArte. These recording have earned many distinctions including the all-time best selling chamber music release of Japan, 11 Grammy nominations, Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Recording and Best Recorded Contemporary Composition in 1996, and “Best of the Year” awards from Time Magazine and Stereo Review.

In September of 2001, Mr. Katz joined the faculty of The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, following five years at Rice University in Houston and twenty years (1976-1996) of teaching at the Eastman School of Music. He has mentored many of the fine young string quartets on the world’s stages today including the Ariel, Biava, Cavani, Chester, Harlem, Jupiter, Kuss, Lafayette, Maia, Meliora, OmerParker, T’ang and Ying Quartets. One of America’s most sought after cello teachers, his cello students, in addition to membership in many of the above quartets, have achieved international careers with solo CD’s on Decca, EMI, Channel Classics and Sony Classical.  They occupy positions in many of the world’s major orchestras including principal chairs of orchestras such as Detroit, Los Angeles,  St. Louis, Oslo, Norway and Osaka, Japan, and are members of many American symphony orchestras such as Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, National Symphony, Pittsburgh, Rochester and St. Louis.

Mr. Katz has been a participant at many of the world’s major summer music festivals and schools including twenty years at the Aspen Festival, Marlboro Festival, the Yale Summer School of Chamber Music, the Perlman Music Program, Yellow Barn, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, ProQuartet in France, Domaine Forget, Orford, Toronto Summer Music, and the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada, the Steans Institute of The Ravinia Festival, The Heifetz Institute, and is a Director of the Shouse Artist Institute of the Great Lakes Chamber Festival. His hundreds of master classes worldwide include many of the major music schools of North and South America, Europe, Israel, Japan and China. Mr. Katz frequently sits on the juries of international cello and chamber music competitions, including the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition, the Gyeongnam International Cello Competition in Korea, and the international string quartet competitions of Banff, London, Munich, Graz and Geneva.

Paul Katz currently resides in Boston, MA with his wife, pianist Pei-Shan Lee.

Mr. Katz plays an Andrea Guarneri cello dated 1669.

Cleveland Quartet Homepage
Internet Cello Society (ICS) Interview with Paul Katz
New England Conservatory Faculty Profile
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