kch (honorees & john kerry.teresa hienz perry )

The Kennedy Center Honors Honorees are pictured with United States Secretary of State John Kerry (standing) Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock (seated) Secretary of State John Kerry, Shirley MacLaine, Martina Arroyo, Mrs. Teresa Heinz Perry (Photo courtesy Kennedy Center)

*WASHINGTON, DC – Each year, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors individuals for their “lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing in dance, music, movies, and TV.”  The honorees are selected by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees.

The primary criterion in the selection process is “excellence.”  The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.

This year, five extraordinary artists were presented with The Kennedy Center Honors medallions on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.  The Emmy-winning Kennedy Center Honors were written and co-produced by George Stevens, Jr. for the 36th year.  The two-hour Honors Gala was broadcast on the CBS Network for the 36th consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Sunday, December 29, 2013.

Recipients of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors 36th annual national celebration of the arts were: opera singer Martina Arroyo; pianist, keyboardist, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock; pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel; actress Shirley MacLaine; and musician and songwriter Carlos Santana.

“The Kennedy Center celebrates five extraordinary individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

“Martina Arroyo has dazzled the world with her glorious soprano voice and continues to share her artistry with a new generation of opera singers.  Herbie Hancock has established himself as one of the most innovative musicians in the world, constantly breaking musical barriers and redefining the art of jazz.

Billy Joel’s melodies have provided the soundtrack of our lives for over four decades making him one pop music’s most prolific and memorable singers and songwriters.

Onscreen, onstage, as an author, Shirley MacLaine’s acting has left an indelible impression over a nearly 60-year career on stage and screen.

Mexican-American Carlos Santana’s artistry with his band and blues-based guitar pioneered a fusion of rock, Latin, African and American rhythms.  From his legendary performance at Woodstock to his sweep at the 2000 Grammys and beyond, Carlos Santana’s artistry transcends genres while entertaining millions.”

During a stunning star-studded celebration on Sunday, December 8, 2013 on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2013 Honorees were seated with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who was stunning in an emerald green Marchesa gown, along with members of the Artists Committee who nominated them, and the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees.  The Honors were saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world.  The President and Mrs. Obama received the Honorees and members of the Artists Committee at the White House prior to the gala.  The stellar evening concluded with a supper dance in the Grand Foyer.

An abundance of luminaries, who were among this year’s presenters and performers included: Kathy Bates, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Terence Blanchard, Garth Brooks, Chick Corea, Sutton Foster, Buddy Guy, Don Henley, Dave Holland, Anna Kendrick, Patina Miller, Karen Olivo, Bill O’Reilly, Sondra Radvanovsky, Arturo Sandoval, Wayne Shorter, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Rufus Wainwright, and Steve Winwood.

kch (flotus & potus)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host gala for The Kennedy Center Honors Honorees at White House (Photo courtesy Kennedy Center)

Under the leadership of George Stevens, Jr. and his Honors producing partner, Michael Stevens, the broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors has received four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Television Special.

The Honors telecast has also been recognized with the Peabody Award and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. Between them, the Stevenses have received 22 Emmys and 53 nominations for their work in television.  Nick Vanoff was co-creator of the Honors with George Stevens, Jr. in 1978.

The Boeing Company is the exclusive underwriter of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Gala Luncheon and post-gala supper dance in the Grand Foyer.  Delta Air Lines, which is the official airline of the Kennedy Center Honors television broadcast, provided transportation for the performers and television crew that attended the Honors Gala in Washington, DC.

This year, the Honoree selection process included expanded solicitation of recommendations from the general public and an advisory committee comprised of artists, past Honorees and Kennedy Center board members.  Previous Honors recipients and members of the Center’s national artists committee, including Emanuel Ax, Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Joshua Bell, Glenn Close, Christoph Eschenbach, Renée Fleming, Morgan Freeman, Paloma Herrera, Lang Lang, Steve Martin, Leontyne Price, Chita Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Steven Spielberg and Forest Whitaker, also made recommendations.

Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser expressed the Center’s continued gratitude to the many individuals involved in the success of the Honors program.  “In addition to recognizing some of the world’s most treasured artists, the Kennedy Center Honors supports a wide variety of artistic programming, as well as the Center’s educational and national outreach efforts.”

About the Honors
Since its inception in 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors has redefined America’s perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards its artists. The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor–the quintessential reward for a lifetime’s endeavor. At the same time, the annual addition of new names to the roster of Honors recipients charts the international standard of excellence set by America’s artists, as well as the aesthetic inspiration provided by artists of other nations who have achieved prominence on these shores.  The annual Honors gala is an evening without categories, without disappointments, and without competition. And the Honors telecast, aired during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, is a perennial Emmy nominee. It serves for millions of American arts lovers as the year’s crowning event, paying tribute to our nation’s preeminent artists with performances by the great stars of today who have followed in their footsteps.  The complete list of guest performers is kept secret until the show is in progress, keeping both the Honorees and the nation on the edge of their seats.  “Our tradition of surprises and surprise guests is particularly special,” says George Stevens, Jr., the show’s longtime co-producer.  “[The fun of the show] is increased by not knowing what to expect; the evening becomes exciting for the Honorees, whose reactions and pleasure at the proceedings make the evening so much fun to watch.”

New York based award-winning journalist Audrey J. Bernard covers entertainment, fashion & beauty, film, lifestyles and travel for the Electronic Urban Report and other outlets.  Contact her via: [email protected]

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard