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Working for Longer

It is difficult to talk about health and wellbeing without touching on some difficult questions. We put some of those to the panel at our Orchestra Section Conference.

Image of the Orchestra Panel

It is difficult to talk about health and wellbeing without touching on some difficult questions - how do we protect ourselves from the impact of playing long-term? Should managers be able to broach the subject of retirement? And how should we as musicians respond? We put these questions to the panel at our Orchestra Section Conference.

Medical issues can affect us all, regardless of age. Peak injury occurs in mid-life, not old age - a fact that often surprises people says Dr. Bill Tamkin (Honorary Physician to the Hallé Orchestra & member of the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, BAPAM). That’s not surprising given how physical the job is. Just 14 minutes of playing a snare drum involves well over 5000 continuous arm movements.

It’s difficult for managers as well as musicians. When a musicians’ contribution is not what it once was for any reason, it is reasonable for management to ask how you’re doing says Andrew Connolly (General Manager, BBC Concert Orchestra). That’s a conversation both sides can be wary of, he adds.

Some medical issues are less well known than others. Focal dystonia, for example, causes parts of the body to stop working normally. It has been known to make musicians’ fingers twist or curl involuntarily, or fail to respond. It is vitally important you protect your health with warm ups and other techniques – contact BAPAM for advice and information about common medical issues affecting performers.

“The fact is you’re going to have stop at some point”. MU Executive Committee Member and Tutti 2nd Violin for the BBCSSO Alex Gascoine raised the issue of retirement, working longer and often for less money to make up for poor pensions and the rising cost of living. The solution, Alex argues, is campaigning for fair pay, sick pay, proper recovery times and proper public funding for orchestras to be able to provide these. “Performance management must be handled fairly and must never be used as age discrimination”.

Are you concerned about any of the issues raised? Get in touch for advice on employment issues, contracts or getting ready for retirement. Do you have a medical question? Book an appointment with a performing arts medicine specialist for free via BAPAM.

Published: 21/01/2016

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