ASCAP’s longstanding Deems Taylor Awards recognizing excellence in music journalism has been suspended; no-charge online listening station Accujazz.com wants to be “the future of jazz radio.” Seismic shifts in the music media landscape continue.
I’m a proud two-time winner of the Deems Taylor Award, named for a late ASCAP board member and president who was also a composer, music journalist, broadcaster. The Awards were last presented in a 41st annual iteration on December 9 2008 to nine book authors including Alex Ross (for The Rest Is Noise), and John Kruth (for To Live’s To Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt), Howard Pollack (for George Gershwin: His Life and Works) and Oliver Sacks (for Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) as well as seven writers of articles, Philadelphia public radio station WRTI, a website created by Oxford University Press’ Norm Hirshy, and a posthumous award to Fred Rogers of the tv show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The prizes came with modest financial gifts ($250 to $1000, according to the ASCAP website — in ’85 and ’94 I received handsome plaques, no cash), but their true value is in giving some greater profile to media on music that are all too often taken for granted. According to Esther SanSaurus, who oversees the Awards, they have been suspended due to economy-related cutbacks affecting many ASCAP programs.