Eminent artists, friends and peers of this year's five honorees converged in Washington, D.C. on December 4, 2011 to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes at THE 34TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, an entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 27 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the ninth consecutive year. This year's honorees include Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, Sonny Rollins and Meryl Streep.
The annual event recognizes recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. Keeping with tradition, the roster of performers and presenters remained secret prior to the gala and a short biographical film was featured during each honoree's tribute.
Performers and presenters included Emily Blunt, Matthew Broderick, Anna Christy, Glenn Close, Stephen Colbert, Ravi Coltrane, Bill Cosby, Robert De Niro, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Drummond, Elmo, Sutton Foster, Benny Golson, Jim Hall, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Heath, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Joe Lovano, Rebecca Luker, Patti LuPone, Christian McBride, Audra McDonald, Jennifer Nettles, Mike Nichols, Kelli O'Hara, Laura Osnes, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Raphael Saadiq, James Taylor, Stanley Tucci, Tracey Ullman and John Williams.
President and Mrs. Barack Obama were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after hosting the traditionAl White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy opened the festivities by quoting her father, President John F. Kennedy, saying, "Forty-nine years ago, my father said, ‘There is little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist... if art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.'"
She continued, "We are here tonight to give full recognition to artists who have used their freedom to create art that has nourished us. Five visionaries are seated in the place of honor next to the President, and we add their names to our signature wall. There they join the honor roll of great artists who have enriched American culture through the performing arts. Their gifts to us are as varied as their origins: a boy who grew up with the sounds of Sugar Hill in Harlem and used the pearl keys of his tenor sax to secure a place among the legends of American jazz; a stage-struck soprano from Georgia who decade after decade has given us all of the joy and the humanity within the American songbook; a Brooklyn lad with a gift for melody who grew into a solitary man, reaching out, touching me, touching you; Mother Superior, Mother Courage, Mamma Mia - and dozens of other indelible characters - earned this New Jersey girl the mantle, ‘actress of her generation'; Paris-born, American bred, this child of the world has expanded our musical universe to become our ‘cellist in chief.' These are our 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees."
THE 34TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is a production of the Kennedy Center. George Stevens Jr., who created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff, produced and co-wrote the show for the 34th year. Michael Stevens was co-producer and co-writer. Earlier this year, the show received an Emmy Award for the third consecutive year for Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy Special. The KENNEDY CENTER HONORS telecast has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Meritorious Service to Broadcasting, and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America.
THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS will air December 27th on the CBS network.
View photos of the special event below!
Photo credits: John Paul Filo, Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS