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NEA Creates Arts Criticism Institute at Columbia

The National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia University has been chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to become one of three NEA Arts Journalism Institutes that will focus on improving arts criticism in classical music, opera, theater and dance. Columbia's program will center on classical music and opera criticism. All three institutes will be designed for journalists who cover the arts for print and broadcast outlets located in areas outside the country's largest media markets.

"We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for giving the Columbia Journalism School the opportunity to deepen its service to the profession," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the school. "The program that the NEA's grant makes possible will provide journalists from all over the country with a wonderful means of learning more about classical music and opera, and over time it should have a demonstrable positive effect on American journalism in that area."

Columbia's institute, to be repeated in 2005, is part of the NEA's $1 million national initiative. Other institutes for theater criticism and dance criticism will be hosted by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Duke University , respectively. All of the participants' expenses will be covered.

According to the NAJP, the extraordinary proliferation in recent years of local and regional orchestras, performing arts venues, and front-rank traveling productions -- not to mention the hundreds of audio recordings that are released annually -- has placed unprecedented demands on journalists in all parts of the United States .

Some journalists who are assigned to write about the arts may not always receive the specialized training to prepare them to make informed critical judgments, or to report with acuity on trends in the performing arts. Regardless of levels of training or experience, all arts journalists face challenges in mastering the accelerating flow of news and ideas in their field, and rarely do they receive support from their newsrooms to travel beyond their home communities.

Up to 25 journalists -- critics and reporters specializing in classical music and opera, as well as editor s who supervise them -- will be selected to attend the Columbia institute this fall.

Participants will take part in morning classroom sessions on the history, concepts and current practices in classical music and opera, as well as classical music journalism. Afternoon sessions will bring them into contact with leading practitioners in the field: performing artists, composers, arts managers and others. Evenings will include visits to performances at New York's main classical music and opera presenting venues. The curriculum includes hands-on sessions conducted by experts on classical music reviewing and the basics of musical performance.

The nationally renowned consultants and instructors of the Columbia institute will include members of Columbia's distinguished faculty, along with classical music critic and historian Joe Horowitz, New York Times senior cultural correspondent John Rockwell, Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday critic Justin Davidson, and classical music radio producer Anya Grundmann.

"Knowledgeable critics and reporters are essential to the long-term vitality of classical music and opera," said Andras Szanto, director of the NAJP. "The participating critics will benefit from the unsurpassed artistic, intellectual and professional resources of Columbia University, the Graduate School of Journalism, and the NAJP."

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Published: June 28, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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