An airline asked this violinist to play for other passengers – in exchange for overhead space

15 April 2019, 14:47

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Giora Schmidt couldn’t fit his instrument into the overhead locker, so he struck a deal with the flight attendant and played some beautiful Bach…

Passengers aboard a Delta Airlines flight to Cincinnati in the US were treated to a burst of Bach’s beautiful Partita No. 3, courtesy of American-Israeli violinist Giora Schmidt.

Schmidt spoke to Classic FM about the incident, saying it all started when he made the flight with just a minute to spare, “before the door closed in my face”.

“Of course I knew that in spite of making it to my seat there was no chance my fiddle would have overhead space. I opened the compartments one by one and all were filled, but with mostly smaller soft items (coats, backpacks etc.) that could easily fit underneath the seats.

“Rather than start negotiating with each passenger I signalled to the flight attendant to see if she might be able to assist. I informed her that my violin was an Italian ‘antique’ that I used professionally and putting it [in the hold] was non-negotiable.

“She said, ‘if you play a concert for us I’ll find you space’. I said ‘sure ok’ thinking she was joking.”

Violinist plays for airline passengers
Violinist plays for airline passengers. Picture: Giora Schmidt

“She then [...] announced to the whole plane ‘we have an international concert violinist on board seated in 10C. Would one or two fellow passengers be kind enough to put some of their belongings underneath the seat in front of them so that he can have space for his violin — in exchange for a little concert onboard’.

“Well that certainly motivated folks, and I realised she indeed wasn’t kidding! Turns out she was a classical music lover...

“After passing through with the usual refreshments, she came to my seat and said ‘are you ready?’ There was some turbulence and we were beginning our descent, but I thought hey what the hell… as I started to tune, I noticed that due to the plane’s size (small commuter) if I stood normally my bow would snap in half!

“I then took a knee and proceeded with the Bach E major Prelude — with ear pressure and all! This was an absolute first for me. I couldn’t believe how much the passengers appreciated it – filming on their phones, and with a huge round of applause at the end.”

Giora Schmidt plays Bach on a Delta Airlines flight
Giora Schmidt plays Bach on a Delta Airlines flight. Picture: Giora Schmidt

Giora’s story follows a string of incidents with musicians travelling with their instruments.

Last year, an orchestra travelling from Riga to Moscow were stopped at security with their instrument cases – so they protested by playing Monti’s Csárdás for all the passengers on board.

Plus, a violinist was kicked off a US flight after refusing to check in their $80,000 instrument.

One user commented on Giora’s video: “I hope this goes viral so more airlines rethink their [musical] instrument policy”.

Read our top 10 tips for flying with your musical instrument here.