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Boston student re-united with $170,000 violin

By Eric Johnson

(Reuters) - Christmas came early for a Boston music student who was reunited with the $170,000 violin she forgot in the overhead compartment of a regional commuter bus she rode this week, police said on Saturday.

Muchen Hsieh, a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, had traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving at roughly 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Christine O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia police, who helped Hsieh track down the missing instrument, said then came a moment of sheer panic for the student.

O'Brien said Hsieh realized she had forgotten the instrument after she was picked up from the bus station. She blamed her absent-mindedness on travel fatigue.

Hsieh called the bus company, Megabus, roughly 30 minutes after she arrived but the bus had already left the Philadelphia station, O'Brien said. Hsieh also notified police, making a plea for the instrument's recovery, O'Brien said.

The 176-year-old instrument, on loan to Hsieh from a Taiwanese cultural foundation, was found by bus cleaners in the same compartment in which Hsieh left it. They put it in storage, and police returned it to Hsieh on Friday.

Hsieh joins the ranks of esteemed musicians who have mislaid or forgotten their valuable and sometimes priceless instruments. World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma once left his in a cab.

One German string player required medical attention from the stress caused when he left his violin, worth roughly $1.4 million, on a commuter train in 2010.

It is not unusual for students at Hsieh's school to have such valuable instruments, Ellen Pfeifer, spokeswoman for the New England Conservatory, told the Boston Globe.

"Most of our string players, whether violinists, cellists, or violists, have pretty expensive, old, rare, instruments," Pfeifer said. "They frequently get them on loan from wealthy foundations."

The violin, which is in pristine condition, was made in 1835 by Vincenzo Jorio in Naples.

"This is certainly one of the most expensive items I have ever heard of and we were so relieved to get it back to the owner," said Megabus spokesman Bryony Chamberlain, adding that people often forget stowed-away items after long trips.

Hsieh had traveled from Boston to New York City and then to Philadelphia, Chamberlain said, a trip that could have taken more than six and a half hours.

"Each division has incidents of lost items that rare -- but this is probably one of the most unique," police spokeswoman O'Brien said, adding that Hsieh put on a mini-concert for the officers who organized the recovery.

"She is very talented," O'Brien said.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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