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Jessica Duchen
Tuesday 2nd November 2010
Strange Tales from NY

How to get ahead in classical music in the 21st century, lesson 1. A 60-year-old violinist in the US, Martin Stoner, is apparently suing Young Concert Artists Inc., alleging age discrimination.

YCA offers valuable financial support and career management to several winners annually, but their ages must be between 19 and 26. Stoner, who played with the New York City Ballet orchestra for 25 years before losing his job last year, tells the New York Post that he was allowed to perform in the contest after threatening legal action and grumbling to the powers-that-be about age discrimination. But he was eliminated before the semi-finals. Next, according to that NYP report, he "filed a Manhattan federal court lawsuit against Young Concert Artists and asked the court to delay the semi-finals until he was allowed to participate"...

First, it seems extraordinary that such an organisation would let itself be pressured in this way. In my humble opinion their mistake was caving in, while his was to target them at all.  Young artists organisations exist to help young artists and there is nothing wrong with that.

There are stories of musicians who have made the big time later in life, or built a name as neglected legends etc -- but historically that doesn't usually occur via litigation. If Stoner has enough money to burn on lawsuits, he could spend it better by hiring a venue, schmoozing some managers and critics, hiring some good PR and launching himself by giving the recital of a lifetime or making a knockout CD that will show the world what he can really do.

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November 9th, 2010
9:11 PM
In that case the NYCBallet, for whom Mr Stoner used to provide musical support, would be in violation too, for not letting sixty-year old would-be ballerinas shine on stage. Mr Stoner has lost his job; that's unfortunate, but it looks like he is cynically trying to take some other arts organisation down with him.

Martin Stoner
November 8th, 2010
11:11 PM
It is illegal for Young Concert Artists to have any age restrictions whatsoever on their auditions because they receive federal money from the National Endowment for the Arts. Under the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Young Concert Artists is breaking the law by refusing to do away with age limits. What about all the other musicians over age 26 who were denied a chance to participate? What is YCA doing for them? Simply put, they are discriminating on the basis of age.

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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