As Immigration Rules Tighten And Federal Funding For The Arts Disappears, What Happens To Classical Music In The US?
Mar 15, 2017
The anti-immigrant phobias surging through Europe and North America have so far had little practical effect on classical music organizations, although there are notable exceptions — one of Britain’s most beloved orchestras, The European Union Baroque Orchestra, is presenting its last U.K. concert on May 19 and will then move to Antwerp. The orchestras’ general manager, Emma Wilkinson, said recently, in the context of post-Brexit Europe: “I do worry that European orchestras will not be inviting talented British musicians to work with them. It will just be too bureaucratically difficult.”
On the question of whether the orchestra might return to perform in the future she added, “That’s the problem with the uncertainty around this whole issue. We just don’t know.”
In America, where the corollary to Brexit is President Trump’s immigration policy, the future is equally fickle. There are no reports of cancelled festivals or concerts because of the president’s original executive order restricting immigration from some Middle Eastern and African countries, signed on January 27 and then undone by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lasting effect of the loosened, new ban signed on March 6, remains to be seen.
At the same time, Facebook is filled with anecdotes about individuals and groups who have suffered immigration problems for years. Indeed, some insist things were not much better under President Obama; visa fees have risen steadily and the process has become more and more onerous.
Under Trump’s original executive order, it was not clear whether people from the listed countries who were living in the U.S. and then left might be able to return even if their visa allowed for international travel. Now, that problem has been resolved. Citizens and visa holders are free to come and go.
Valentina Simi, San Francisco Opera’s Artists Services Coordinator and Assistant to the Music Director, told us that she doesn’t know of any artists who have put off travel plans to the U.S. because of the visa application process, and in her opinion the process isn’t “too difficult.” But she acknowledged, “We are facing some new, unpredictable delays with regards to the time it takes for the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to adjudicate petitions.” But these delays are not necessarily related to uncertainty around the recent executive orders. She added that “standard processing has always been unpredictable especially after 9/11”.