ASCAP/Virgil Thomson Awards for Music Writing Honor Top Critics, Authors

Rolling Stone critic David Fricke and Don Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops were among this year's recipients.

Editorial use only. No book cover
Digital Media Factory/Kobal/Shutterstock

ASCAP and the Virgil Thomson Foundation have issues their annual awards in the fields of music writing, with the honors going to such works as a prominent Rolling Stone critic’s liner notes for a boxed set by the Band, a biography of Dexter Gordon by the jazz great’s widow, and a Wall Street Journal critics’s book-length study of how a thriving opera company can go wrong.

The 51st annual ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards were announced in the fields of outstanding print, broadcast, liner notes and new media coverage of music. The awards were established in 1967 by the two orgs in memory of Deems Taylor, a composer, critic and commentator who had a six-year stint as the head of ASCAP, the performing rights organization.

David Fricke, a Rolling Stone journalist of many decades standing (pictured above), was honored for his liner notes for a 50th anniversary deluxe edition of the Band’s “Music From Big Pink.” Don Flemons, a musician famously of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, got a separate award for his own liner notes for his release “Black Cowboys,” exploring racial diversity in vintage Western music.

Maxine Gordon, widow of the tenor sax legend Dexter Gordon, was celebrated for her biography “Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon.” Another outstanding biography award specific to the concert music field went to Andrea Olmsteadfor her book on one of the great 20th century composers, “Vincent Persichetti: Grazioso, Grit and Gold.”

Heidi Waleson, opera critic for the Wall Street Journal for more than a quarter-century, received an award for outstanding music criticism for her book “Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America.” Laura Davis-Chanin was also recognized for her book “The Girl in the Back: A Female Drummer’s Life with Bowie, Blondie, and the ‘70s Rock Scene.” The honor for outstanding ethnomusicology went to Katherine In-Young Lee for her study of how a percussion style became a global music genre, “Dynamic Korea and Rhythmic Form.”

Two articles received official plaudits: “Living in the Present with John Prine,” written by Tom Piazza for the Oxford American, and “As Seen on TV: Putting the NBC Opera on Stage,” penned by Danielle Ward-Griffin and published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society.

Broadcast/Internet awards went to Pablo Salazar, the creator and producer of “Living American,” a SiriusXM radio show that each week is curated and hosted by a leading player in 21st century classical music, and Laurence Maslon, host and producer of “Broadway to Main Street,” a program on NPR affiliate WPPB on Long Island.