Pianist Herbie Hancock and Soprano Martina Arroyo Awarded 2013 Kennedy Center Honors

By Classicalite Newsdesk on Sep 14, 2013 01:44 AM EDT

On Thursday, jazz pianist/composer Herbie Hancock and operatic soprano Martina Arroyo were named as recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors--one of the United States' top cultural awards.

Pop singer Billy Joel, rock guitarist Carlos Santana and Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine will also be honored at the ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on December 8 in Washington, D.C.

Created in 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors were created to recognize the lifetime contributions of performing artists to American culture.

Hancock, 73, is considered an innovative pianist and composer--an early adopter of synthesizers, making waves with solo works such as "Cantaloupe Island" and "Watermelon Man."

Arroyo, 76, rose to prominence at the Zurich Opera between 1963-65, after which she became one of the Metropolitan Opera's leading sopranos for more than thirteen seasons. As a black female, she was among the first in her generation to break down the barriers of racial and gender prejudice in the opera world.

Joel, 64, a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter who broke out with 1973's "Piano Man," is one of the best-selling pop musicians in the United States. Santana, 66, is best known as a guitar virtuoso who fused rock and Latin music.

MacLaine, 79, won an Academy Award for her lead role in the 1983 comedy-drama Terms of Endearment and was nominated for four other acting Oscars. She also helped break barriers, especially the Hollywood studio's system of contracted movie stars.

The honorees will be received by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House event prior to the ceremony, which will be broadcast by network CBS on Dec. 29.

Kennedy Center Honors recipients are selected by a Kennedy Center committee and come from the fields of music, dance, theater, opera, film and television.

The honors have been bestowed on more than 180 performers, including included Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul McCartney and Willie Nelson.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by Mary Milliken, Bill Trott and Logan K. Young)

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TagsHerbie Hancock, Martina Arroyo, Kennedy Center Honors, Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, Shirley MacLaine, Cantaloupe Island, NEA, Barack Obama, CBS

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