As I’m sure you know, gentle readers, the NBA has not, of late, covered itself in glory in its relations with Communist China. Various players, and the League itself, have shown themselves to be uninformed dimwits, cowards, money-grubbing opportunists or all three in falling all over themselves to avoid doing anything to bruise the tender sensibilities of China’s despotic leaders.
I was therefore saddened, to learn that kind of boot licking of totalitarians is not confined to professional athletics. It’s not surprising to learn it’s common in so-called “higher” education, but it’s sad nonetheless, as Legal Insurrection reports:
Eastman Philharmonia is one of the orchestras in the music school at the University of Rochester in New York. They embarked on a tour in China, but the Chinese government refused to issue visas for student musicians who are South Korean.
The tour is continuing without them.
The orchestra made the shocking decision to exclude the South Korean students.
WHAM News reports:
‘Politics invades Eastman Philharmonia tour to China; South Korean musicians unwelcome
In the Hatch Recital Hall at the Eastman School of Music, Anna Gasanovia coaxes beautiful music on her viola.
‘Music reaches the soul and touches the soul,’ Gasanovia said during a break.
Then Sophie Volpe picks up her trombone. She describes her music like this: ‘It’s not something that looks to divide or put people into different categories. It’s something that brings people together.’
They are two of the 80 members of the Eastman Philharmonia. Starting in December, the group will tour eight cities in China over 12 days – taking a cultural message and considerable talent directly to the Chinese people.
‘Music exists to express something we can’t express in any other way,’ said Jamal Rossi, Dean of the Eastman School of Music. ‘We have a chance to do this with a culture that I know embraces and loves classical music.’
Apparently, however, China doesn’t appreciate all classical musicians, nor does the Eastman School of Music.
Since 2016, China has blocked South Korean artists from performing. [skip]
Joseph Galamba of the Violinist blog puts it in perspective:
‘Eastman to Remove Koreans from Top Orchestra For China Tour
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…
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.’
‘Dear Members of the Eastman Community,
I am writing to you regarding the tour of the Eastman Philharmonia to China. Earlier this week, I sent messages to the student members of the Philharmonia and the Eastman faculty regarding my decision to continue the upcoming tour, following news that three South Korean members of the Philharmonia would not be able to obtain required work visas in China because of a diplomatic matter between those two countries. Instead of paraphrasing that information, I believe it is very important for all members of our community—students, staff, faculty, alumni, and our Eastman community at-large—to understand the various factors that were considered and the efforts that were made prior to making this decision. To that end, I have attached both messages so you will know how and why the decision was reached to continue the tour…
This was a difficult decision because there exist valid positive and negative elements related to cancelling or proceeding with the tour. While I appreciate that opinions may vary about this decision, I desire for our Eastman community to understand the complexity of the matter before drawing each person’s own conclusion.’
I’ve been involved in the arts all my life. Primarily as a musician, but also in theater, and there is little doubt many such people, perhaps most, are politically leftist. However, they usually stand together when there is an outside threat of any kind. During my years as a director, had anyone—anyone—demanded any of my musicians be excluded as a condition of employment/performance, there would have been no difficult decision to make, no soul-searching. I would have told them, politely and professionally, to fold it six ways and stick it where the sun don’t shine. One doesn’t work with people for years, sharing the sacrifice and joys of making music, only to tell them they’re not good enough or welcome on any stage with others that did the same. That would be an unforgivable betrayal.
I’m not at all familiar with the leadership of the Eastman School, but I suspect this was more of a professional decision than one informed primarily by love of communists and disdain for America or South Koreans, but if that’s correct, the School’s decision to exclude it’s South Korean students is no less reprehensibile.
Not only is this a betrayal of the contract, real and implied, between the school and it’s students, it is a particularly ugly personal betrayal. Any ensemble of such schools admits players by highly competitive audition only. Students are commonly admitted to the school only after auditions, and further auditioning, consistent performance and a degree of dedication and responsibility unknown to most college students, is required for admittance to each ensemble, unless a student was specifically recruited and given a scholarship, and even those students are auditioned.
Imagine, gentle readers, the reality of those South Korean students, kids who worked very hard indeed not only to come to America, but to earn a place at Eastman, only to find the ugly regional politics of Asia oppressing them in America. The willingness of their fellow student musicians to abandon them must be particularly damaging. It appears nothing is more important to Eastman than having a tour of China in its yearbook and history.
There is no complexity involved. By kowtowing to Chinese dictators the Eastman School has betrayed not only its South Korean students, it has betrayed America, the non-political status to which all musicians should aspire, and has given the Communists a substantial propaganda victory, something to which all dictatorships pay a great deal of attention. In effect, the Eastman School has allied itself with a murderous ideology and regime that is determined to conquer its region, perhaps the world.
History teaches that under such despots, the freedom of any kind of expression, including music, does not fare well. The Eastman School deserves the scorn of all honorable musicians, and of all Americans.
UPDATE, 11-29-19 2030 CST: Thanks to reader Don, via City Newspaper, it appears the school has canceled the tour, but the reasons given sound fishy indeed:
Jamal Rossi, the dean, originally agreed to the prohibition rather than cancel the tour, citing the reputation of the school and its ability to recruit future musicians from China.
‘Cancelling would likely have a negative impact on Eastman’s reputation within China, and potentially limit other opportunities to recruit, perform, and tour for our faculty and other ensembles,”’ he wrote in a letter to faculty last week.
Uh, who gives a crumbled fortune cookie what China thinks about Eastman? Students come to Eastman to become professional musicians, not because they might possibly have a chance to tour a communist hellhole and be props for a totalitarian state’s propaganda. Certainly, the opportunity to perform in foreign lands is a potential draw, but no student is ever promised a spot in an orchestra that will perform in a specific place during their tenure at any school. Refusing to throw students under the tour bus at the command of communists would damage Eastman’s reputation? Standard academic thinking. It appears few, if any bought Rossi’s drivel, and his life was not pleasant thereafter, so he did this:
In a letter addressed to the Eastman community, Rossi stated that the tour would be postponed until visas for all the members of the orchestra, Eastman Philharmonia, could be obtained.
‘It is my priority and personal commitment to continue to provide opportunities for Eastman students to share their music with the world,’ Rossi wrote. ‘But I believe that given the particular circumstances of this tour, the best course of action for the Eastman community and the values we share is to wait until the Philharmonia can perform as one.’
Read the rest of the article, where Rossi said the whole thing was due to some sort of visa screwup, and it wasn’t his fault.
Rossi’s public pronouncements are standard, self-serving, deceptive educratic nonsense. If China really wanted Eastman, there would be no visa problems whatever. The rule of law in China is what the Central Committee of the Communist Party says it is from minute to minute. Suggesting the issue was due to a visa mixup is par for the course for invertebrate college administrators everywhere.
As I noted in the original article, this “conflict” could and should have been resolved by Rossi demonstrating some American backbone and saying, “you take all our students or none.” The rest is virtue signaling.