Here is the latest travel outrage! Personally, I have never let a security agent handle my instrument and have developed a standard speech that so far, has always worked: “Sorry sir/madam, this instrument is extremely valuable and fragile and that is why I don’t check it in baggage. I’m glad to open and close the case for you and let you inspect it thoroughly. But I will hold the instrument for you. If you need to touch the wood, please take off your ring, and be careful your fingernails don’t scratch the varnish.” That seems to impress them enough that they behave!
-Paul Katz

Top Cellist’s Bow is Damaged: Alban Gerhardt Calls Airport Security Staff “Brutal and Careless”. Reprinted from The Strad – Friday, 08 February 2013

Photo: courtesy Alban Gerhardt

A rare Heinrich Knopf bow belonging to Alban Gerhardt was damaged by security officers as he entered the US. In what the cellist called “an act of brutal and careless behaviour”, the bow stick (left) was snapped in two, over the bridge of the cello, by air security staff at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, as they examined the case’s contents.

According to Gerhardt, the bow must have somehow moved halfway out of its cover (the tip was still in the cover), and when it was halfway out, [Transportation Security Administration workers] forced the case shut and the bow broke. The incident occurred on 6 February, a day before Gerhardt was due to perform Prokofiev’s Symphony Concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Madison, Wisconsin.

Gerhardt had also brought a Baroque bow in the case, for a subsequent concert in New York, but for the Prokofiev he was obliged to borrow a bow from Uri Vardi, a cellist and teacher at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.