Mandatory retirement for musicians is a form of prejudicemain
Reader Comment of the Day comes from SVM, in the course of a lively debate on age discrimination at the Berlin Philharmonic:
Life expectancy has, on the whole, increased significantly, so it is to be expected that young people will probably have to wait longer to get established in a dream career than they might have done in the past. But, for such a highly competitive profession as music, I think it is fair to say that most musicians do not really “make it” until they are in middle age, meaning that, if forced to “step aside” at 65, they get relatively few years of being able to reap the rewards of decades of preparation and privation (on top of an extended period of costly formal education, many musicians will have foregone more lucrative career paths to enable them to be ready to seize opportunities when they come). Even among famous musicians, it is often the case that the activity for which they are notable was not their main source of income for much of their career, but an activity subsidised by other work (such as teaching… although it is also true that many musicians do jobs in unrelated professions — Philip Glass used to work as a plumber!).
Mandatory retirement ages are an extremely crude form of prejudice that should be utilised only in professions where there are serious safety implications and compelling scientific evidence of a very strong positive correlation between increasing age and a serious decline in the ability to do the job effectively. As a younger musician, I object strenuously to mandatory retirement being justified in my name (or, should I say, in the name of “intergenerational fairness”). Such a policy might actually reduce the work on offer, since it is the older musicians who are often in the best position (by virtue of their reputation, contacts, experience, and means) to create work for themselves and their younger colleagues — I am fortunate to play in an ensemble where the majority of my colleagues (including our director) are 65 or over.
Read on here.