TRAVERSE CITY — Deborah Collins cringes a little every time her son, Luke, boards an airplane to travel cross country from the family's home in California to school at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
She isn't worried so much about his safety — more that of his trombone. The instrument that holds the key to his future in music carries more value than a price tag can convey.
"We've probably made five trips so far this year," Collins said. "I always feel like it's a roll of the dice."
Collins' worst nightmare came to fruition a few weeks ago when she met her son's flight from Traverse City when it landed in Boston. The pair were on a college audition tour and needed the trombone.
The instrument — required to be checked as baggage at Cherry Capital Airport — did not have a nice flight. The trombone arrived on the East Coast with a bent slide, rendering the instrument inoperable for an important week of auditions. Collins quickly arranged to borrow a replacement and the show went on.
"You can tell it was thrown around because when it went in the case was in good condition," Collins said. "It wasn't that expensive to fix, $100. But it's not like you can go to Target and pick one up."
Collins can't say where in transit the damage occurred. She encourages her son to do anything he can to get the trombone into an overhead compartment or a closet near his seat. On this trip the small airplane was packed and airline agents said he and another Interlochen student would have to check their instruments. Both were damaged in transit.
Collins is tangled in an ongoing struggle after years of debate about how to best protect musicians' instruments when they travel.