Friday, September 18, 2015

Patrick D. McCoy: Washington Life Magazine: Perfect Pitch: Highest Honor [Tenor George Shirley Among Recipients of National Medal of Arts]

President Obama bestowing upon legendary tenor George Shirley the National Medal of Arts in the special ceremony held in the East Room.  Shirley is the first African-American tenor to sing a leading role at The Metropolitan Opera (Photo by Kadesh DuBose/KmBd Studios™)

Famed author Steven King was among the 2014 National Medal of Arts Recipients at The White House. (Photo by Kadesh DuBose/KmBd Studios™)

Acclaimed actress Sally Field is presented the 2014 National Medal of Arts by President Obama at The White House. (Photo by Kadesh
DuBose/KmBd Studios™)

Just before receiving his official honor at The White House, medal recipient George Shirley was in attendance at a private breakfast hosted in celebration of the occasion by the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts. Pictured: Alvy Powell, Terri Allen, George Shirley and Pamela Simonson. (Photo by Debra Johnson)

George Shirley, Sally Field and Stephen King were among those honored with the National Medal of the Arts at The White House.

By Patrick D. McCoy

The skies of downtown D.C. were overcast, but nothing could dim the festivity that shined in the artistic achievements of several greats honored in the East Room for the National Medal of Arts ceremony  at The White House. How befitting it was for elegant orchestral music greet guests as they arrived for ceremony. The East Room seemed to bustle with great anticipation as the invited guests awaited the arrival of the afternoon’s honorees.

The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. It’s awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who “are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.”

Following presentation of the National Medal of Arts was the presentation the National Humanities Medals.  Recognizably present arts leaders for the ceremony were NEA Chairman Jane Chu and Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx and now Dean of the University of Michigan School of Music. There were eleven recipients of the National Medal of Arts.  They were: visual artist John Baldessari, theater director Ping Chong, actress Miriam Colón, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, actress Sally Field, visual artist Ann Hamilton, author Stephen King, folk singer Meredith Monk, the University Musical Society, author and educator Tobias Wolff and operatic tenor George Shirley.  Presented the medals by President Obama, there was a sense of joy and adulation experienced by each recipient receiving the nation’s highest honor recognizing accomplishments in the arts.

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