In 1922, at the age of 18, he became the youngest member of the San Francisco Symphony. He left there for New York City in 1926 where he became a violinist with the New York Symphony (1926–28) and later the New York Philharmonic (1928–30).
He abandoned his performance career in favor of pursuing a career as a journalist, critic, and writer in 1930. He wrote music criticism for Musical America, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and The New York American.
He was notably a music editor for Time magazine from 1937–1945, and he served as a senior writer for Life magazine from 1945–1949. In 1940, William Saroyan lists him among "contributing editors" at Time in the play, Love's Old Sweet Song.
From 1949–1972, he wrote the column Musical Events for The New Yorker. He continued to write music criticism for that publication until his death in 1986 at the age of 82. His books included Jazz: Hot and Hybrid (1938), Geniuses, goddesses, and people (1949), Listening to music (1958), Jazz: a history (1964), In spite of myself: a personal memoir (1970), Divas (1973).
Sargeant had a long-standing interest in the Bhagavad Gītā. Sargeant published his own English translation of the Bhagavad Gītā (see article) in 1979.
- Tim Page (August 19, 1986). "WINTHROP SARGEANT, 82, DIES; MUSIC WRITER FOR NEW YORKER". The New York Times.
- Saroyan, William (1940). Love's Old Sweet Song: A Play in Three Acts. Samuel French. p. 72. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- Alden Whitman (March 1, 1972). "Music critic translates Bhagavad Gita for layman". The New York Times. p. 26.
Robert A. Simon
| Music Critic of The New Yorker