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Imagine you’re traveling abroad. The to-do list can be long. Book your flight, pack a toothbrush — and if you’re a musician like John Thomas, you may soon need a passport for your instrument.
Thomas is a law professor at Quinnipiac University, and the proud owner of a vintage 1943 Gibson guitar.
“It contains some rare and valuable materials, including this Brazilian rosewood,” says Thomas.
The wood is prized for guitars, but listed as threatened under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is meeting in Bangkok this week.
Thomas says U.S. delegates have proposed passports for instruments made with exotic woods, old ivory or tortoise shell parts because, as it stands now, instruments can be seized if musicians don’t have import and export permits for each country they visit.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upholds the convention on endangered species. Assistant Director for International Affairs Bryan Arroyo believes the current system is too burdensome. For example, touring symphony orchestras traveling with priceless violins and cellos face reams of paperwork.
“It would drive them nuts,” says Arroyo.
Instrument passports are meant to ease the burden.
“You know, we want to make sure that we can facilitate the great musicians of the world to be able to move from country to country without fear of losing their precious instruments,” says Arroyo.
Countries are expected to vote on the passport plan this week.