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Bad news: Texas loses music critic

July 28, 2015 by norman lebrecht

10 comments.


The Dallas Morning News is under new editorship and talent is fleeing in droves (the official language is that they are accepting buyouts).

At the head of the exodus is music critic Scott Cantrell, a writer of international renown.

He may not be replaced.

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UPDATE: Scott writes: Thanks for your very generous characterization of me. There is a new editor. The buyout was made available to 167 members of our 300-plus newsroom, and I gather more than 30 are taking it. No decision has been made on the classical music critic position going forward. We’ve agreed in principle that I’ll continue to cover the beat on a reduced freelance basis through the 2015-2016 concert season. That will give me the transitional year I’d really hoped for, and give editors time to consider how they want to cover classical music in the future. I’ve had a wonderful 15 years at the Morning News, but the timing of the buyout couldn’t be better for me.


Comments (10)

  1. herrera says:

    Often, one questions what function music critics serve, but one rarely thinks about what would happen if there were no music critic at all. In the Dallas areas, I am not aware of any regular music critic with the reach of Cantrell, and the absence of a local classical music critic can only hurt the Dallas Symphony and the Dallas Opera.

    Audiences — local and international — do rely on the local music critic to provide not only news on the arts organization, but also regular reviews on how they are progressing.

    In Chicago, the death of Patner left a void in the critical spectrum, but the town still has 2 major national newspapers with regular critics as well as 2 excellent sites with excellent writers (who often scoop the 2 major newspapers!).

    Let’s hope that those sites expand their coverage in Dallas, or some local aficionado can set up a site. Today, these sites could be as important and influential as the major newspapers.

    1. MWnyc says:

      “Often, one questions what function music critics serve, but one rarely thinks about what would happen if there were no music critic at all.”

      As one critic of my acquaintance says, “You’ll miss us when we’re gone.”

      In fact, we’ve seen what happens in one area – South Florida – when both the major (English-language) daily newspapers eliminated their classical critic positions and almost entirely eliminated coverage of the subject.

      South Florida’s classical organizations became desperate for a way to reach their audiences. So, as we know, Lawrence Johnson (the last staff critic at both papers) launched the website South Florida Classical Review to fill the gap. I don’t know if South Florida Classical Review breaks even or earns a small profit, but whenever I visit the site, it certainly seems to attract advertising.

  2. Milka says:

    International renown ?????? Scott Cantrell who ??? spare us the hype ……….

    1. MWnyc says:

      Milka, just because you haven’t been paying attention doesn’t mean that plenty of other people in the classical field outside the U.S. aren’t aware of Scott.

    2. Russell Platt says:

      Cantrell has been one of America’s leading music critics for decades.

  3. Alvaro says:

    How is this bad?

    1. Colin Eatock says:

      Whenever music criticism is eliminated or downsized (which is not an unusual thing these days) it seems that there’s always someone who says, “So what?” or even “Good riddance!” But it’s always bad for the music, and its place in our culture, when the space for public discourse about classical music is reduced or compromised. Things that are not discussed in public do not long remain in the public eye.

      1. MWnyc says:

        Except that we don’t even know for certain whether or when classical music coverage at the Dallas Morning News will be eliminated or downsized. All we know for certain is that the DMN offered a buyout at a good time for Scott and that Scott chose to take it.

        Now I’d guess – and it can only be a guess at this point – that the DMN editors will probably choose to have classical coverage written by freelancers rather than by a staff critic. That may not be good for a critic who’d love to have a salaried job with health insurance, but it does not by definition mean that there will necessarily be less, or lower-quality, coverage.

        There’s no way to know until it plays out.

  4. Maria Nockin says:

    Print publications are not surviving in large numbers. Those who are concerned with classical music need to look at the online publications for reviews. Many fine online publications cover opera so that should not be a problem for opera lovers and those who work in the field. Opera Today and Bachtrack are just two good English language publications that cover opera all over the world.

  5. Scott Cantrell says:

    As it turns out, I’ve continued covering the busy Dallas/Fort Worth classical music scene as a freelance for three seasons since taking the buyout. At the moment, I have no plans to stop (although, of course, I do wonder when that day will come). As far as I can tell, editors are happy for me to continue. Sadly, it’s pretty clear that it will never again be a full-time staff position, so for the time being this seems to be a good arrangement for both the paper and me.


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