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Pittsburgh Symphony trip to Iran delayed

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and American Middle East Institute have moved the target date for a possible tour to Iran.

The proposed August tour has been postponed to sometime during the next year, the organizations announced Wednesday.

“I think it is very wise,” said music director Manfred Honeck. “To prepare such a tour is very complicated and many things are still unsettled.

“I'm sure the management and all those involved in the decision making are thinking about how we do this,” Honeck said. “We want to be sure everyone likes the tour, feels it is well organized and will provide a good environment to make music.”

Uncertainties remain around several critical factors, including charter aircraft and fundraising, said symphony president James Wilkinson in a prepared statement, which prompted the decision to spend more time in the planning process.

“Any international tour by the PSO must be approved by the musicians and board of trustees well in advance, and without more clarity on these critical issues we cannot present it for approval at this time,” Wilkinson said.

“I know the prospect of this tour is an unsettling subject for some,” said William Caballero, principal horn for the symphony. “But I think this is an important role and opportunity for the musicians as ambassadors for Pittsburgh and the U.S.

“Politics aside, we can't afford to say no,” he said.

Representatives of the symphony and the Pittsburgh-based American Middle East Institute traveled overseas for a week in February to explore the possibility of organizing a performance in Iran.

“We had a successful trip to Iran — the State Department is all for it,” said Simin Yazdgerdi Curtis, CEO of the American Middle East Institute. “I'd rather not delay, but it might mean that we can (make it) an even bigger deal when we go. ... We're determined as ever to go.”

The Pittsburgh Symphony last played in Iran in August 1964 on a three-month international tour sponsored by the State Department. The symphony estimates the cost of the proposed tour at around $4 million.

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