Criticism: Newsday

By Astor, Dave | Editor & Publisher, April 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Criticism: Newsday


Astor, Dave, Editor & Publisher


A Composer Hits all the Right Notes

Justin Davidson went from composing pieces of music to composing pieces about music.

Indeed, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism took an unusual road to journalistic success. He majored in music at Harvard and Columbia universities, studied classical guitar in Paris, taught music, and composed music that's been performed on several continents.

"The only way I was going to get into journalism was writing about music," says Davidson, who began free-lancing for Newsday, Melville, N.Y., in 1995 and was hired as a staff classical-music critic the following year.

"We were so impressed with his work that we found a place for him," says Phyllis Singer, Newsday's assistant managing editor for features. "He's a very elegant writer, and infuses his writing with history and context."

Since then, Davidson has not only done reviews but also written stories about classical music. And he's diversified by occasionally covering other topics, such as guns in America.

"It makes me fresher as a music critic when I come back at the beginning of the season," he says.

Davidson realizes classical music does not have a huge fan base, but tries to write in a way that might also attract people who don't know a lot about it.

"Justin does not dumb down his coverage, but he manages to find a way to invite the general reader in," says The Washington Post's Tim Page, another classical-music writer who won the Pulitzer for criticism (in 1997). …

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