Image 01 Image 03

University’s Music School Excludes South Korean Students from Tour at China’s Behest

University’s Music School Excludes South Korean Students from Tour at China’s Behest

“Even more stunning, the students in the orchestra themselves voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the tour by leaving their peers behind.”

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.”

Eastman School ensembles regularly tour internationally. Yet it’s been 30 years since a tour has been undertaken by a group of musicians of this size.

After auditions and months of practices, the ensemble learned three of the musicians are not welcome. The reason? They are South Korean.

Since 2016, China has blocked South Korean artists from performing.

It’s ironic that this is happening shortly after weeks of news stories about the NBA bowing to the interests of the Chinese government. It is just as outrageous.

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.

The music school dean has released a statement. Here’s an excerpt, via Slipped Disc:

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.

One has to wonder how this would have played out if China wanted to exclude students from other groups. Would the tour still be on if black or gay students were refused?

Featured image via YouTube.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


ScottTheEngineer | October 29, 2019 at 9:16 am

Are they South Koreans or Americans?
That makes a big difference.

    Does it matter? People are so busy hyphenating every single ethnicity-American, that we are no longer solely called American. They should just be “students”, not South Korean, or Korean-American.

    It is is sad that it comes down to this.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to herm2416. | October 29, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      How “nice” of the Democrat Party run university to Step N Fetch it for their Communist Masters…………

      No, it does matter. If they are actual foreigners, China is exercising their prerogative to manage who enters their country. The fact these folks are touring with an American University program doesn’t grant them the privilege of being treated as Americans. (They have to obtain their work visas using their Korean passports.)

      Having said that, the universities love to tout their universality and multiculturalism and such, and this puts a GIANT LIE to all that. If they were truly as multiculti as they claim, they would be stamping their feet and holding their breath over this. In reality? They are not universalists, but communists, and will gladly bow to their PRC betters.

    I don’t know, but I am pretty sure they would be SK citizens. China generally reacts in a formal way, so they wouldn’t assess skin color ancestry without DNA tests (obviously not at play here). But legal nationality is a normal ground to deny a particular visa.

    I wasn’t aware of this problem between SK and China though. Did SK start it by denying visas to Chinese citizens?

      dunce1239 in reply to artichoke. | October 29, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      the Korean war did not end with a peace treaty and as china was one of the parties they are still technically at war with South Korea.

        It is true that the Korean War ended with an armistice and not a formal peace treaty. However, as far as I know there were never any formal declarations of war by the U.S. or China. I don’t know about North or South Korea declaring war on each other.

        China was careful to call their forces in Korea volunteers rather than the People’s Liberation Army (the name for their armed forces). Truman was also careful to call this a ‘police action’ rather than a war.

        That said, I also don’t know if China has ever formally recognized South Korea as an independent nation (as it has never recognized Taiwan, for example). It’s hard to give a visa for a country that you maintain does not exist (like the U.S. giving a visa to someone from the CSA).

    Chinese commies and American academic commies, standing together.
    Seems like both are bold enough to show their true colors without fear of being discredited.
    At the last Olympics, the South Koreans agreed to have the North Koreans appear alongside them so I don’t quite get this.

      artichoke in reply to NGAREADER. | October 29, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      And the Chinese surely don’t love that. China fought hard in the Korean War to have NK as a buffer state between it and US influence. If the two Koreas reunify, that buffer is gone.

      Kim Jong Un finds himself being wooed by both sides, China on one side and US + South Korea on the other.

Would the tour still be on if black or gay students were refused?

This, students, is a good example of a rhetorical question.

    artichoke in reply to rinardman. | October 29, 2019 at 11:08 am

    It’s an example of a probably misleading question. Black or gay aren’t nationalities.

      healthguyfsu in reply to artichoke. | October 29, 2019 at 12:45 pm


      The point of the rhetoric still stands if you ask:

      Would the tour continue if illegal Mexican immigrants were refused?

        artichoke in reply to healthguyfsu. | October 29, 2019 at 2:03 pm

        The question would be similar without the word “illegal”, although there’s a perception (right or not) that most Mexican citizens living here are here illegally.

        With the word “illegal” it clearly adds an unrelated issue.

          artichoke in reply to artichoke. | October 29, 2019 at 4:41 pm

          Downvotes but no explanation, lol.

          No, the question would NOT be the same without the word ‘illegal’, as illegal aliens cannot (legally, anyway) obtain the necessary credentials (a US passport) to obtain a work visa in a foreign country. I doubt a legal alien could obtain the visa based on a green card, but the national gov’t actually does issue legal identification to those who are here legally.


      Explanation: I didn’t like or agree with your comment.

They should cancel immediately

    The Packetman in reply to Virginia42. | October 29, 2019 at 10:40 am

    The quickest way for that to happen is if supporting alumni start pulling their donations …

    Should, but most certainly won’t.

    rabidfox in reply to Virginia42. | October 30, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    No, not if these musicians are SK nationals. China, like any other country, has the right to determine who comes into their country. American students have no right to whinge about another country following their own rules. Canceling out entirely would seem like a protest of another country’s legitimate action.

They should be honest when accepting applications – “EASTERN PHILHARMONIA: WHITE EUROPEANS ONLY. OH, AND NO JEWS.”

“The orchestra made the shocking decision to exclude the South Korean students.”
Stand for something, or you will fall for anything.
The selfishness of the students is shameful. Put the shoe on the other foot, kids, and see how you feel.

New York… enough said

This profile in courage brought to you by your future leaders. I’m old enough to remember when a local baseball voted to miss a critical playoff game because black players were excluded.

Something worth considering: Did the South Korean students (when they found out) *ask* for the tour to continue without them after having their visas rejected? Sure, cancelling the tour would be a gesture against the ChiComs, but having the vast majority of the remaining troupe continue their tour is going to have the following phrase used frequently to whoever they talk with.

“It would have been nice to have (names of students) with us, but your government would not allow them to come with us just because they are South Korean citizens.”

China is going to experience the Streisand Effect far more by banning them then they ever would have by letting them come along.

    artichoke in reply to georgfelis. | October 29, 2019 at 11:18 am

    But if the policy is waived for wealthy talented SK citizens who have gone abroad to study music in the USA, what about ordinary SK citizens — who may have been defectors from NK, entering China to to the northeast, meet family members who slip across the river there, and bring the rest of their family back to SK? Not saying that there’s anything wrong with that either, but the whole situation seems to have created problems and a resulting visa policy.

    If they waive it for elite music students, the ordinary folks in SK will want it waived for them too.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to georgfelis. | October 29, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    From the text:
    “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…”

    The last sentence implies, but does not absolutely confirm that the South Korean students did not have any vote.

    I’m pretty sure that the school will do whatever they are told by the CCP on any subject. They know who they take orders from.

    Subotai Bahadur

    katiejane in reply to georgfelis. | October 30, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    To expect the SK students to take one for the team is expecting them to be more mature that their fellow bandmates. When the entire rest of the band blew them off it would be very hard to call them out for having no honor. Of course it is the school’s fault for not having checked this before they arranged the tour.

    So what other groups will the orchestra delete if it offends some nation? If Israel rejects Arabs will the band agree to dump them – if they have any?

Cowardly and selfish.

It’s probably because of SK nationality. Not race, just nationality, and there’s apparently some issue between China and SK where they aren’t granting visas to each other.

First I’d heard of that though.

As for the three SK citizen students, they probably knew this would happen because if there’s a problem between their government and nearby China, they’d know that already. They have a lot of NK defectors who slip across the river to China, then travel out and eventually settle in SK. I think that migration route has created some international tensions, and maybe this visa policy situation comes from that.

From several decades ago: grad students and faculty of a library science school at a flagship state university attended a conference in Cuba. Cuba would not grant an entry visa to a student who had been born in Cuba but was a US citizen. She had left Cuba many decades before, when she was a child.

    artichoke in reply to PostLiberal. | October 29, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Here, there really is an issue of compromising US foreign policy by sending the group minus the Cuban refugee. And they went anyway. It’s normal to do the trip and omit the people with visa problems.

    There seems to be a lot of support here for a US institution stepping in the middle of a situation between China and SK that doesn’t even involve USA. Maybe it’s because Mike LaChance brought up the spector of race (China discriminating against Asians, really?) or sexual orientation at the end.

is their country of course, but how stupid and petty of the chinese

other than julliard(and north texas state, for jazz), eastman is the premier music school in america–people from all over the world come to study/perform there–the best of the best–musicians not politicians–artists not activists–seeking to bring beauty into the world not divisiveness

were my decision, would cancel the tour–not because of the chinese per se but because art and beautiful music transcend politics and will endure long, long after some stupid bureaucrats pass into obscurity

This definitely is not part of the “Meliora” tradition. The left sucks.

From the WHAM link
Since 2016, China has blocked South Korean artists from performing.

“We were suddenly caught right in the middle of this. It was really a challenging decision to make,” said Rossi. “Do we continue the tour without the valued colleagues or do we still go forward?”

The news that threatened the trip also made the reason for it even more vital.

“It’s been really uncomfortable because we want what’s best for (our colleagues), we want what’s best for the school, we want what’s best for our relationship with China,” said Volpe.

Congressional leaders and the Chinese consulate were not able to intervene. After several meetings, the members of the ensemble voted two-to-one in favor of going.

Ultimately it was up to Dean Rossi. He made his decision after meeting with the group and speaking to each of the three students who would be left behind.

“They were unified in saying (they) still wanted this tour to go forward and that was very helpful to hear,” Rossi said.

According to this the South Korean students didn’t put up much of a fight as well as the balance of the orchestra

The orchestra members’ actions are the sort of thing that gives opportunism a bad name. Let’s take a trip back in time. Suppose the apartheid South African government refused entry to a few members of an orchestra based upon their racial/ethnic/political background. Does anyone seriously believe the “artistic community” would be as supine as they have been in this situation?

Maybe these artists just enjoy licking the jackboots of communists. Even Leni Riefenstahl had the good grace to be embarrassed about kissing up to Hitler’s Third Reich. I doubt if these little darlings will reach even that meager level of self-awareness.

I don’t want to hear about the power of art to inspire positive change. Ever.

This is just unacceptable. Will the Chinese next say that they don’t want Muslims in the orchestra? Or (fill in the blank)? People need to stop pandering to this kind of thing and stand up for some principles–shame on the school for even considering such a thing.

    rabidfox in reply to rochf. | October 30, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    China has the sovereign right to deny entry to citizens of another country. As does any country. It’s political not racial.

The University of Rochester band plays at a lot of Toronto Raptors NBA games. I read in the local paper that the University asked the Toronto management and the NBA the best way to handle this difficult situation.

Wow, that’s going to smart! Unforced error.

Update: Eastman caved and finally did the right thing, the China tour is cancelled.

Morons. From the very start they should have told the Chicoms that they were all coming or none of them were.

They should go to Taiwan instead, or South Korea.

Never cecum to Communist demands. Even the home grown ones, example the candidates vying for nominee of the Commicrat party

The psychologically sickest people in America are running our educational system.


Ah! The all-inclusive, liberal minded, politically correct universities! How hypocritical!