Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra pushes back trip to Iran

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday that it will delay the target date for a potential concert tour in Iran, a project planned jointly with the Pittsburgh-based American Middle East Institute.

Originally proposed for late August or September, the tour will now be planned for an unspecified date during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts in September.

Simin Yazdgerdi Curtis, president and CEO of the American Middle East Institute, said she hopes it will take place within two to six months of the original timing.

"We have a lot of momentum going, so we don't want to delay it by much," she said.

"Things are moving ahead. We're just not going to do it this summer. But we are going to do it," said Robert Moir, the PSO's senior vice president of artistic planning and audience engagement.

The PSO attributed the delay to the complicated preparations required of international tours, which typically take two years to plan.

The proposed Iran visit will have to navigate especially thorny arrangements, and the former target date allowed less than six months to make them. Those include the outcome of international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program and the ability of the American Middle East Institute to raise the roughly $4 million needed for the trip. As a matter of policy, the PSO does not use funds from its operating budget for concert tours.

Those issues would be on top of typical conditions that the PSO must meet in order to travel, such as approval from musicians and board members.

"By contract, we must present a tour in detail to the musicians six months in advance for a vote. We have passed that deadline and still do not have sufficient information to make a comprehensive presentation to them that will answer all of their possible questions," Mr. Moir said.

While the situation is delicate, progress on the tour has been promising. Mr. Moir and Mrs. Curtis met with top-level Iranian and State Department officials last year. They traveled to Iran in February as guests of the Fajr International Music Festival, returning with a proposal for the concert tour.

A visit to Iran in 2014 would mark the 50-year anniversary of the last time the PSO performed there. The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1750 or on Twitter @BloomPG. First Published March 26, 2014 2:26 PM

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