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$250,000 violin gets virtuosos bumped from airline flight, prompts viral video

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A flight attendant points to regulations saying a violin is not allowed as a carry-on
  • Violinist Zachary De Pue is Concertmaster at a symphony orchestra
  • He whips out the violin on the tarmac and lets loose a classical solo that turns into a viral video

(CNN) -- It's a good thing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart doesn't have an Internet connection. If he could see what happened to Zachary De Pue this week, he might turn over in his grave.

A video is going viral of violin virtuoso De Pue stranded on the tarmac of Charlotte, North Carolina's airport Monday, playing his heart out in indignation -- on a priceless violin.

His fiddle is worth more than $250,000. It's the reason De Pue, the Concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, didn't make the plane.

Nick Kendall, Ranaan Meyer and Zachary DePue of Time for Three perform at the inaugural exhibit of vintage Breguet timepieces on board the USS Intrepid on June 14, 2012 in New York City.
Nick Kendall, Ranaan Meyer and Zachary DePue of Time for Three perform at the inaugural exhibit of vintage Breguet timepieces on board the USS Intrepid on June 14, 2012 in New York City.

A flight attendant on the US Airways flight to Fayetteville, Arkansas, wouldn't let De Pue take the precious violin on board with him. He insisted he turn the sensitive instrument in as checked baggage.

For De Pue, it was out of the question that the violin be tossed into the cargo bay.

He did not mention which violin he was carrying. But according to the orchestra's website and that of the band he was traveling with Monday, De Pue plays a violin made by master luthier Ferdinand Gagliano in 1757, the year after Mozart was born.

Time for Three

De Pue and fellow violinist Nick Kendall are part of a string trio called Time for Three, along with bassist Ranaan Meyer, whom they were on their way to meet.

Kendall was also carrying a valuable violin on board, but neither could convince the crew that their precious cargo would fit in the overhead bins.

The pilot apologized, Kendall said, and told them the FAA mandates that musical instruments cannot be carried on the plane. If federal agents discovered a violation, a fine of $10,000 would follow.

The two got off the plane.

Cap, T-shirt, jogging pants

The youthful looking De Pue told HLN's Right this Minute that he didn't feel they were being taken seriously.

Standing on the tarmac in his Ninja Turtles T-shirt and jogging pants, with a baseball cap on backward, his appearance was a far cry from the cliché of an elegantly dressed Concertmaster.

But De Pue is used to breaking the mold with his trio, especially musically.

On their historic string instruments, they love to stroke out country music, bluegrass and jazz, or improvise their own hybrids in jam sessions.

De Pue decided to appeal to the pilot's ears, and whipped out the invaluable violin.

"Film this man," he told Kendall, who pulled out a cell phone. "I'm going to play for them, and maybe that will get their attention."

The intention was clear -- online retribution. "We're gonna post this. This is gonna be something that everybody talks about," Kendall said.

De Pue's agile bow and nimble fingers toned out a classical aria over the blunting roar of the jet engines, as the last of the crew boarded.

Rectifying rules

The music touched the right ears. US Airways put the two on a later flight with their precious instruments as carry-ons and issued a mea culpa.

"We sincerely apologize for not only their delay, but what occurred at the airport," said Bill McGlashen, a spokesman for US Airways.

He cited varying regulations as the reason the two could not carry the instruments aboard the first flight, but were allowed to take them on the second.

It wasn't the last run-in De Pue and Kendall would have over the priceless violins.

On the next flight they took, the same thing nearly happened again, De Pue and Kendall said,when a ticket agent asked them to turn in their instruments as checked baggage.

But this time, they were prepared.

They had studied FAA regulations and found a 2012 adjustment in the rules, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. It allowed them to carry their instruments on board, they said.

They showed the regulations to the agent, they said. It did the trick.

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