Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sonny Rollins to Receive Nat'l Medal of Arts at White House, tomorrow

Tenor sax titan Sonny Rollins is one of ten honorees who will receive the 2010 National Medal of Arts for outstanding achievements and support of the arts, it was announced by the White House today. The presentation will be made tomorrow, March 2, at 1:45 pm, by President Barack Obama in an East Room ceremony at the White House. Mrs. Michelle Obama will also be in attendance.

"I'm very happy that jazz, the greatest American music, is being recognized through this honor, and I'm grateful to accept this award on behalf of the gods of our music," Rollins said of the award.

The National Medal of Arts is a White House initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Each year, the NEA organizes and oversees the National Medal of Arts nomination process and notifies the artists of their selection to receive a medal, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence.

"The National Medal of Arts recipients represent the many vibrant and diverse art forms thriving in America," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "From criticism to literature, music, poetry, sculpture, and theater, these honorees' devotion to shaping and sharing American art is unrivaled, and I join the President and the country in saluting them."

The 2010 National Medal of Arts Recipients are: Robert Brustein, theatrical critic, producer, playwright, educator; Van Cliburn, pianist, music educator; Mark di Suvero, sculptor; Donald Hall, poet; Quincy Jones, musician, music producer; Harper Lee, author; Sonny Rollins, jazz musician; Meryl Streep, actress; James Taylor, singer, songwriter; Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. (Lee and Streep are unable to attend tomorrow's ceremony.)

The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is awarded by the President and managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Award recipients are selected based on their contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. Each year, the Arts Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the Arts Endowment's presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA (www.arts.gov) extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

Past jazz honorees include Ella Fitzgerald (1987), Billy Taylor (1992), Cab Calloway (1993), Dave Brubeck (1994), Lionel Hampton (1996), Betty Carter (1997), Benny Carter (2000), Paquito D'Rivera (2005), Wynton Marsalis (2005), and Hank Jones (2008).

Rollins is currently in the midst of assembling a second volume of "Road Shows" recordings from his extensive archive for Fall 2011 release on his Doxy label. (Volume 1 was released in 2008.) The new CD "may contain something from the Beacon concert," he says, referring to the September 2010 Newk@80 concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York. "Everything is on the table."

The saxophonist's 2011 concert season opens with appearances 5/8 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and 5/13 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. He plans three concerts in June in Australia and (for the first time) New Zealand, and will perform at several European festivals in July. Rollins heads to the West Coast in September (including the Monterey Jazz Festival 9/18). An extensive European tour, with stops in Basel, Istanbul, Warsaw, and Budapest, among other cities, is planned for October-November.

Watch the White House ceremony tomorrow, March 2, at 1:45pm ET: www.whitehouse.gov/live
Photos by John Abbott

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