Pianist Leon Fleisher, actor Steve Martin, singers Diana Ross and Brian Wilson and film director Martin Scorsese will share the 30th annual honors of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in December.
“With their extraordinary talent, creativity and perseverance, the five 2007 honorees have transformed the way we, as Americans, see, hear and feel the performing arts,” Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman said Tuesday in announcing the honorees. “We will forever be thankful for the great gift they have shared with us.”
President Bush and the first lady will host the honorees Dec. 2, before attending a gala performance and supper dance at the Kennedy Center. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will present the honors at a State Department dinner the night before.
The Kennedy Center honors will be recorded and broadcast Dec. 26 for the 30th consecutive year on CBS as a two-hour prime-time special. The honors recognize a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
Schwarzman called 79-year-old Fleisher’s career a “moving testament to the life-affirming power of art.” Fleisher lost the use of his right hand for much of his career because of a rare neurological disease but fought to return to two-handed playing. He has served on the faculty of Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of Music since 1959, among other schools and symphony orchestras.
Martin, 62, is a “renaissance comic whose talents wipe out the boundaries between artistic disciplines,” Schwarzman said.
Upon hearing of his award, Martin was true to form: “I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for finally alleviating in me years of covetousness and trophy envy.”
The instantly recognizable voice of Ross, 63, has “spread romance and joy throughout the world,” Schwarzman said.
Ross said she was honored to be among so many greats and part of the Kennedy Center’s artistic legacy. She said there is no real secret to her success. “My life is not really complicated. I try to keep it as simple as possible,” she said. “My values are in the right place, I think.”
Scorsese, 64, who won his first Oscar this year for “The Departed” after losing five times, was honored for being a “visionary” and “fearless artist.” The filmmaker said he was “proud to be joining the company of the very distinguished individuals who have received this honor in years past.”
The Kennedy Center noted the 65-year-old Wilson’s hugely popular work with the Beach Boys but also his “era-defining transformation of the sound of music.”
The honorees are chosen from recommendations by the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee, including Anjelica Huston, Kenny Chesney and Melissa Etheridge, and past honorees, such as Carol Burnett and Bill Cosby.