The Eastman Philharmonia will not be going on a tour in China as initially planned.

Monday’s decision is a reversal for Eastman School of Music Dean Jamal Rossi, who at first announced last week that the student orchestra would proceed with the eight-concert tour, even though three South Korean members would not be able to go. 

Those three students were denied work visas in China. According to Rossi and the New York Times, the move indicated retaliation for the 2016 US decision to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea. 

According to CITY Newspaper, the tour was scheduled to run from Dec. 30 through Jan. 8. In a statement to faculty announcing his initial decision to proceed with the tour, Rossi had written that he only heard of the visa issue in late September.

“I believe that cancelling Philharmonia’s first international tour in more than 30 years just two months in advance of the tour would reflect very badly on our school,” Rossi had written. 

In the same message, he’d written that the 80-plus students in the Philharmonia supported proceeding with the tour by a two-to-one margin. 

“I was particularly influenced by our South Korean classmates, who voiced their strong and unified opinion that the tour should move forward.”

But Monday, Rossi made an about-face: The tour would not proceed unless all members of the Philharmonia were able to go. 

In Monday’s message, Rossi said that he was still evaluating options after he made his first decision.

But even after I announced my decision last week,” Rossi wrote, “my colleagues and I continued to actively explore multiple avenues to obtain appropriate visas for every member of the ensemble.”

When attempts to get the visas proved unsuccessful again, Rossi said, he chose to cancel the tour.

The New York Times article said that Eastman is just one US organization affected by US-China tensions.

“The [Chinese] government unleashed a campaign against the NBA this month, for example, after the general manager of the Houston Rockets expressed support for anti-government protests in Hong Kong,” the article said. 

Rossi did not definitively cancel the tour in his statement. He described it as a postponement until the matter could be resolved.

“The best course of action for the Eastman community and the values we share is to wait until the Philharmonia can perform as one.”

Correction (11/1/19): An earlier version of this article referred to Rossi as “Eastman Dean of Students.” He is, in fact, dean of the school. 

Tagged: china Eastman Rossi


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