Classical performances are back, but U.S. visa backlogs remain

Posted on: October 15, 2021

Conductor Thomas Dausgaard with the Seattle Symphony in 2019. Photo: James Holt

“When the Seattle Symphony finally performed before a full audience last month for the first time in a year and half, something was missing: its music director, the Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, who could not get a visa to travel to the United States,” writes Javier C. Hernández in Friday’s (10/15) New York Times. “Many cultural organizations are struggling with … their inability to get artists into the United States because of a long backlog of visa applications…. The Biden administration plans to lift a pandemic-era ban on travelers from 33 countries next month…. The State Department … said the pandemic had resulted in ‘profound reductions’ in its ability to process visas…. Arts groups are calling on the government to fast-track visas. ‘The overarching concern is that it would have a chilling effect on international cultural activity and everything it has to offer,’ said Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy at the League of American Orchestras. ‘When arts organizations can’t rely on the process to work, it makes it very expensive and somewhat risky.’ … Zubin Mehta, the renowned conductor, said … ‘A great American orchestra playing in Berlin getting a standing ovation is a reflection on America.’ ”