On my way to Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth, WA, land of snowy mountains and high desert and beautiful music. My thoughts turn to travel...
As I transfer from plane to plane, starting with big ones flying out of Cleveland and O'hare to a smaller one in Seattle (en-route to Wenatchee, WA), I am reminded of stories from colleagues and friends of baggage mishaps and heartbreaks, especially with regards to precious cargo. For some, the unfortunate item be a fragile souvenir purchased during a vacation, for others, it may be the means by which one makes their vocation.
In the field of music, a damaged piece of equipment, or worse, an instrument, means not only a financial setback that could cost years of a musician’s income to remedy, but sudden painful separation from an artist’s closest friend. Sometimes, a simple repair can do the trick to restoring the functionality of one’s damaged instrument; other times even the most exquisite and complex repairs, no matter how skillfully executed, will never return an instrument to its former glory.
Fortunately, there are some things that are replaceable -- at a cost. But who is there to help? In the world of independent travel, the responsibility (and liability) is largely left to the ticket holder. Some instruments are simply too large to be carried on to the coach section of an airplane. If an instrument must be checked, it is important to know that airlines often do not accept liability for damage and have limited liability for loss. Airlines are not liable for damage to any instrument not presented in a hard-sided case, and also are not liable for damage to the instrument unless the exterior case is also damaged. I have heard more than one story of a friend checking their instrument (with “FRAGILE” stickers pasted all over the case) and watching from their seat on the airplane as it was chucked out of the plane or fell off the baggage ramp. Our cases are built to be strong -- so strong, in fact that a fall like that may not even make a scratch or dent on the outside, but any owner of a fine instrument will immediately envision their precious cargo turning into firewood tinder and scrap metal.
What to do? I don’t play a huge instrument, so I would love for others to share what they have learned from their own travel experiences.
In the meantime, here are a things that I’ve found really helpful.
Insurance: the no-brainer. There are tons of companies that can insure your valuable belongings, and lots of policy types to choose from. You should be able to find plenty of options at an affordable price, no matter where you are in your career. Since my husband and I now own a house, my instruments and music and all equipment related to my work is covered under my home-owner’s insurance, under a special “valuable personal property” rider. Sure, you say, you can afford that now that you’re ‘all grown-up!’ Well, when I was a student, I still had insurance for my musical property, even when I didn’t have health insurance. I’m not necessarily advocating for that path -- I think both are essential -- but at that point it made sense for me.
Imagine it this way: Your instrument disappears while you’re sitting in a train station on your way to your next big east-coast gig. If you’re not insured, you have the police report and the ‘power and flexibility’ of your ‘extremely large’ bank account to fix the immediate problem so you can still play the gig, and the long-term problem of recovery and repair or ultimate replacement. OR, if you are insured, you’ll be able to quickly procure a short-term, equal-value replacement at little or no cost to you, and you’ll have a network looking out for your stolen article. In the long term, if your instrument is recovered but damaged, the repairs will be covered. If your instrument needs to be replaced, that will also be covered. Which door would you choose?
Here are some insurance options (I'll list some specific options on a later post):
I'm Erica Ward, formerly