Concert tour canceled as U.S.- Russian relations hit sour note
Rising tensions between the United States and Russia have triggered cancellation of an eight-city music tour by a local jazz quartet.
“Each new day brings me some new worries,” said an email from the Russian promoter. “The connections between our two countries become worse and worse every day, and now it is just terrible.”
He had engaged San Diego’s Rob Thorsen Quartet for performances in eight historic cities on the Crimean peninsula. The tour, originally set for March 11-21, was previously postponed to April 15-22 to avoid any conflicts during Russia’s presidential election on March 18.
This week, however, Thorsen got word that his tour was being scuttled. He was advised, though, that it could be revived at a more peaceful time and in a less politically charged location in Russia.
Publicity about the American music group was starting to become politicized and used for propaganda purposes, said the Russian organizer. He expressed fear that the quartet’s music would be overtaken by a media circus of interviews with the U.S. musicians. Questions and press conferences would give rise to “speculation, distortions, rumors and gossip.”
“I am extremely concerned that this can damage the reputation of artists and have the opposite result to the one I was counting on when I conceived this project. … I will never forgive myself if something is used against them … after the concerts in the Crimea,” the promoter informed Thorsen. “I hope you understand what I mean.”
The four musicians — bassist Thorsen, trumpeter Curtis Taylor, pianist Hugo Suarez and drummer Richard Sellers — had gotten their visas but didn’t suffer out-of-pocket losses because their travel and expenses were being underwritten by the tour sponsor.
“I was disappointed,” said Thorsen, referring to the tour as “a dream come true.”
“It paid well,” he added. “Everybody was bummed.”
“It’s off for now, but there is plenty of work so I’m thankful for all the performing opportunities right here at home,” Thorsen posted on his online site.
He had not looked at the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory to Americans traveling to Crimea saying that Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of this part of Ukraine, which was not recognized by the international community, has led to “arbitrary imprisonment of foreigners” and locals — especially those perceived as challenging Russian authority. That is a grim warning.
All calm: The federal government’s temporary hold on Broadcom’s takeover of Qualcomm was welcome news in many San Diego quarters.
One of the tech giant’s less visible impacts on the San Diego community is its commitment to public STEM education.
San Diego City Schools Superintendent Cindy Marten doesn’t know what effect the high-tech takeover might have on the school district’s education programs with Qualcomm, but she is relieved to know that it will be business as usual for the time being, at least.
“If somebody, such as Broadcom, comes in from outside, would it have the deep roots to give San Diego kids engineering experiences that are really relevant and meaningful like Qualcomm is doing?” she said.
“That was a big question mark for us, and we didn’t know whether they would or they wouldn’t. I’m happy to say, and to know, that these partnerships are going to continue to be strong because that decision is being put off.”
As many as 8,000 middle school students learn robotics, coding, engineering and get hands-on experience in the Qualcomm-supported Thinkabit Lab program that began in 2014-2015, Marten estimated. High school students get work-based learning experience through internships, and Qualcomm professionals come to the schools to work with them.
While this education partnership might continue under Broadcom, the Singapore-based company, in the process of moving its headquarters to San Jose, has a reputation for cost-conscious management and maximizing profit.
Priorities: St. Patrick’s Day is next Saturday. So San Diego Rotary Club President Bob Russell thought it prudent to remind the incoming membership class of the holiday when inviting them to participate in the club’s annual Camp Enterprise for high school students over the weekend.
The camp is a Rotary-run retreat for business-minded student entrepreneurs. St. Patrick’s Day drinking would have to be postponed until after the Saturday session ends at 4 p.m., Russell warned. With that, he learned a lesson about what’s important in life: None of the incoming members signed up to participate.
Say what? Vicki Estrada was taken aback to spot a bottle of cognac at the Costco in Mission Valley selling for $4,999 and a bottle of Glenlivet 50-year-old single malt scotch for $19,999.
“Seriously?” she posted online. “It would seem if you could afford these, you don’t shop at Costco.”
Right on, Vicki. But a response quickly shot back from Niles Richman (no pun intended) that put things in perspective: “I’ve never found a decent bottle of cognac for less than $100,000.”