This article is copyright 1990 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in the American Federation of Musicians International Musician, Vol. 88, No. 10, April 1990. It is used by permission of the author and, as needed, the publication. Some text variations may occur between the print version and that below. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.

This article led to the designation of Midway Airlines
as the official airline of the American Federation of Musicians.


Carry-On Luggage: An Update

by Antonio J. García


In my July 1989 IM article “Carry-on Luggage: The Musical Facts” I illustrated how the concerns of the musician traveling with an instrument were not being sufficiently addressed by the airline industry. At the time, only two of the thirteen major airlines queried allowed my trombone case as a carry-on item despite the fact that its dimensions fell within Air Transportation Association maximum guidelines. Since then, those two airlines have altered their policies negatively, evidence of the growing constraints upon all travelers. The July article also revealed that owning a soft-sided “gig bag” was no asset for air travel and that even buying a seat for an instrument provides no guarantee of passage for it.

Phase Two of my investigation has concentrated exclusively on the claim we musicians have so often heard from the airlines’ ticket agents: “I’m sure that if you contact us far enough in advance we can work out an assurance that you can carry your instrument on board.” In August I once again contacted the thirteen major airlines (American, Braniff, Continental, Delta, Eastern, Midway, Northwest, Pan American, Piedmont, Southwest, TWA, United, and U.S. Air) and reiterated the FAA’s statement from the June 5, 1987 Federal Register: “...we would expect that carriers would establish procedures to allow passengers to notify the airlines prior to traveling to see if special baggage needs can be accommodated.”

I provided the dimensions (36”x 9”x 12”) and weight (12 pounds) of my trombone case, noted that it fell within ATA and FAA maximum standards, and specified that purchasing a seat for the instrument was not a financial option. I then requested a written statement from each airline to the effect that, if I were limited even to a single carry-on, I could carry that one item on board as my chosen carry-on. (Having researched the overhead bin sizes of virtually all applicable commercial aircraft, I had found that bin size was not an issue so long as a bin was present.)

Ten of the airlines responded. Eastern, Piedmont, and United did not (obviously contrary to the spirit of the FAA statement). Nine of those airlines refused to issue any form of written permission. However, two airline executives actually contradicted themselves—in writing—regarding their restrictive policies. They stated that I should not encounter “any difficulty” because my case did not appreciably exceed an individual or... cumulative total.” When confronted with the fact that such latitude was either contradictory to airline policy and/or impossible for me to utilize dependably without a written statement from them, both executives backed down and refused to issue permission. The lesson is clear: if an airline “Supervisor of Passenger and Ticketing Services” or “Executive Staff Assistant Manager” is either unclear, mistaken, or deceptive in written correspondence regarding carry-on policy, what chance do musicians have of getting accurate information from ticket agents over the phone?

Only Midway Airlines offered any level of cooperation. In fact its Manager of Consumer Relations, Diane Ferri, was most helpful. She issued me a letter which encouraged flight crew and gate agents—who do have the last word on the matter—to allow me to carry my case on board the plane and stow it in the overhead bins provided that (a) my case indeed fits within the overhead compartments of the plane in use and (b) I am willing to put any other luggage items below the plane, if necessary. The letter specified my round-trip flights for December and January, suggested I carry the letter for crew and gate agent reference, and stated that its content had been entered into the computerized record for my ticketed flights. Suggesting that this letter be a “trial run,” Ms. Ferri invited my feedback following the flights and any discussion towards future travel arrangements.

Carrying this letter, coupled with my usual procedure of pre-booking seats in the rear of the non-smoking section (so as to board early and maximize the potential for bin storage space), I felt as confident as a musician could feel taking a valuable instrument on a flight. I arrived at the gate for the earliest possible check-in and met no resistance from the desk agent for either flight. Though my December flight was only half-full, my January flight was booked to capacity and would have posed a problem had I not selected rear seating. But in neither instance did the gate agent or flight crew question my bringing the case on board. Had they done so, I would have felt more confident in successfully stating my position given the Consumer Relations Manager’s detailed letter.

Perhaps Midway’s receptiveness will spark some degree of cooperation from the other airlines, which refused to respond affirmatively, clearly, or at all even five months after my August inquiry. Midway Chairman David R. Hinson’s approach was paraphrased in a recent Chicago Tribune article: “Employees are far more productive when they...are empowered to decide how to solve customer-service problems.... Giving Midway’s workers that power has helped the company cut its complaint rate and increase...compliments.”

A portfolio of seventy-eight pages of supporting documents was delivered by me to Nathan Kahn, Administrative Assistant of the AF of M Symphony Department, for his use in illustrating musicians’ concerns to unions representing the airline pilots and flight attendants. As stated in my July article, I can only recommend that we make our needs known, individually and collectively, to the industry until a satisfactory measure of response is received.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Antonio J. García is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra I; instructs Applied Jazz Trombone, Small Jazz Ensemble, Music Industry, and various jazz courses; founded a B.A. Music Business Emphasis (for which he initially served as Coordinator); and directs the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band. An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music and of Loyola University of the South, he has received commissions for jazz, symphonic, chamber, film, and solo works—instrumental and vocal—including grants from Meet The Composer, The Commission Project, The Thelonious Monk Institute, and regional arts councils. His music has aired internationally and has been performed by such artists as Sheila Jordan, Arturo Sandoval, Jim Pugh, Denis DiBlasio, James Moody, and Nick Brignola. Composition/arrangement honors include IAJE (jazz band), ASCAP (orchestral), and Billboard Magazine (pop songwriting). His works have been published by Kjos Music, Hal Leonard, Kendor Music, Doug Beach Music, ejazzlines, Walrus, UNC Jazz Press, Three-Two Music Publications, and his own, with five recorded on CDs by Rob Parton’s JazzTech Big Band (Sea Breeze and ROPA JAZZ). His scores for independent films have screened across the U.S. and in Italy, Macedonia, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, India, Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

A Bach/Selmer trombone clinician, Mr. García serves as the jazz clinician for The Conn-Selmer Institute. He has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 nationally renowned artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Collins—and has performed at the Montreux, Nice, North Sea, Pori (Finland), New Orleans, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. He has produced recordings or broadcasts of such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Jim Pugh, Dave Taylor, Susannah McCorkle, Sir Roland Hanna, and the JazzTech Big Band and is the bass trombonist on Phil Collins’ CD “A Hot Night in Paris” (Atlantic) and DVD “Phil Collins: Finally...The First Farewell Tour” (Warner Music). An avid scat-singer, he has performed vocally with jazz bands, jazz choirs, and computer-generated sounds. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). A New Orleans native, he also performed there with such local artists as Pete Fountain, Ronnie Kole, Irma Thomas, and Al Hirt.

Mr. García is a Research Faculty member at The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa) and the Associate Jazz Editor of the International Trombone Association Journal. He serves as a Network Expert (for Improvisation Materials) for the Jazz Education Network and has served as President’s Advisory Council member and Editorial Advisory Board member. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores avenues for creating structures that correspond to course objectives. His book Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music) offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He is Co-Editor and Contributing Author of Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (published by NAfME) and authored a chapter within The Jazzer’s Cookbook (published by Meredith Music). Within the International Association for Jazz Education he served as Editor of the Jazz Education Journal, President of IAJE-IL, International Co-Chair for Curriculum and for Vocal/Instrumental Integration, and Chicago Host Coordinator for the 1997 Conference. He served on the Illinois Coalition for Music Education coordinating committee, worked with the Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to develop standards for multi-cultural music education, and received a curricular grant from the Council for Basic Education. He has also served as Director of IMEA’s All-State Jazz Choir and Combo and of similar ensembles outside of Illinois. He is the recipient of the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2001 Distinguished Service Award.

Regarding Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading, Darius Brubeck says, "How one grades turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately practical resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references." Jamey Aebersold offers, "This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students." Janis Stockhouse states, "Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!" And Dr. Ron McCurdy suggests, "This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."

About Cutting the Changes, saxophonist David Liebman states, “This book is perfect for the beginning to intermediate improviser who may be daunted by the multitude of chord changes found in most standard material. Here is a path through the technical chord-change jungle.” Says vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, “The concept is simple, the explanation detailed, the rewards immediate. It’s very singer-friendly.” Adds jazz-education legend Jamey Aebersold, “Tony’s wealth of jazz knowledge allows you to understand and apply his concepts without having to know a lot of theory and harmony. Cutting the Changes allows music educators to present jazz improvisation to many students who would normally be scared of trying.”

Of his jazz curricular work, Standard of Excellence states: “Antonio García has developed a series of Scope and Sequence of Instruction charts to provide a structure that will ensure academic integrity in jazz education.” Wynton Marsalis emphasizes: “Eight key categories meet the challenge of teaching what is historically an oral and aural tradition. All are important ingredients in the recipe.” The Chicago Tribune has highlighted García’s “splendid solos...virtuosity and musicianship...ingenious scoring...shrewd arrangements...exotic orchestral colors, witty riffs, and gloriously uninhibited splashes of dissonance...translucent textures and elegant voicing” and cited him as “a nationally noted jazz artist/ of the most prominent young music educators in the country.” Down Beat has recognized his “knowing solo work on trombone” and “first-class writing of special interest.” The Jazz Report has written about the “talented trombonist,” and Cadence noted his “hauntingly lovely” composing as well as CD production “recommended without any qualifications whatsoever.” Phil Collins has said simply, “He can be in my band whenever he wants.” García is also the subject of an extensive interview within Bonanza: Insights and Wisdom from Professional Jazz Trombonists (Advance Music), profiled along with such artists as Bill Watrous, Mike Davis, Bill Reichenbach, Wayne Andre, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Jim Pugh, and Ed Neumeister.

The Secretary of the Board of The Midwest Clinic, Mr. García has adjudicated festivals and presented clinics in Canada, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, and South Africa, including creativity workshops for Motorola, Inc.’s international management executives. The partnership he created between VCU Jazz and the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal merited the 2013 VCU Community Engagement Award for Research. He has served as adjudicator for the International Trombone Association’s Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Rath Jazz Trombone Scholarship competitions and the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble competition and has been asked to serve on Arts Midwest’s “Midwest Jazz Masters” panel and the Virginia Commission for the Arts “Artist Fellowship in Music Composition” panel. He has been repeatedly published in Down Beat; JAZZed; Jazz Improv; Music, Inc.; The International Musician; The Instrumentalist; and the journals of NAfME, IAJE, ITA, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Percussive Arts Society, Arts Midwest, Illinois Music Educators Association, and Illinois Association of School Boards. Previous to VCU, he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Combos at Northwestern University, where he taught jazz and integrated arts, was Jazz Coordinator for the National High School Music Institute, and for four years directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Formerly the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, he was selected by students and faculty there as the recipient of a 1992 “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” award and nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE “U.S. Professor of the Year” (one of 434 nationwide). He was recipient of the VCU School of the Arts’ 2015 Faculty Award of Excellence for his teaching, research, and service. Visit his web site at <>.

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