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Kennedy Center Honors to host nearly a week of events featuring Garth Brooks, Debbie Allen, Joan Baez and more

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We’ll find a way to do it, Rutter said of the celebration of the lifetime achievement, which is still a work in progress despite four months off. I sincerely hope that these five people feel as honored, supported and recognized as possible.

Rutter declined to share further details, saying she learned from this pandemic year that plans are changing. But she said the arts center hoped donors would attend a series of intimate events starting May 17, including a ceremony to present the rainbow ribbon medallions, an event traditionally held at the department of State. Performances and tributes will be presented until May 22 combining in-person and virtual audiences, she said. Much depends on the local restrictions in place, but the center could have 50 donors inside and up to a few hundred outside, with testing and other protocols in place to keep performers and clients safe. Some tributes could be recorded elsewhere, depending on the conditions and wishes of the artists involved.

The goal, Rutter stressed, is to bring together a small audience for a week of distinction instead of a weekend. Shared live experiences are part of our world, she said.

The winners, interviewed by phone and Zoom on Tuesday, mainly shrug their shoulders out of uncertainties. Four of the winners said they would travel to Washington for the event, with Baez, who is 80, saying they will wait to see if she is vaccinated and what the safety instructions are in the spring. Traditionally, winners must agree to attend.

What I love about Kennedy Center Honors is that you take a course. It’s pretty cool. It’s not just sitting in that chair, but who’s sitting next to you. It’s honor, said Brooks. You are sitting next to people who changed the culture, who defined the culture.

Postponed from December to spring, the celebration is a major fundraiser that brings in around $ 6 million for the center. Rutter said she hopes the series of intimate, invitation-only events will attract donors, although she doesn’t expect the final total to be that high.

It’s so hard to break a tradition, but if you can’t do it, you find a new way, she said of the new format. The 44th annual celebration is expected to revert to a traditional format and take place in December, as planned.

Baez is recognized as a voice of her generation, an artist-activist who paraded with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and then protested against the Vietnam War. His music has been honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the Library of Congress, and Amnesty International has awarded him its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, for his decades of promoting social justice. Baez was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

The Kennedy Center Honors made her reflect on her time and the similarities it shares with the news, she said.

It is clear to me that whatever serious problem existed at the time, it far exceeded it, she said. At the time, there was a sense of community. Young people today have never experienced anything like this from this collective movement.

Today’s fractured society affects music as well, she said, making it difficult for a song to capture the moment. I think a lot of songs are being written, but it’s hard to find a platform. They are scattered, she said. He did not reach a collective, did not merge.

Despite being a regular at recent ceremonies, Brooks, 58, was surprised to learn that it was his turn in the spotlight. He attended the 2019 ceremony with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, who performed for the honored Linda Ronstadt, and he paid tribute to James Taylor in 2016 (and Billy Joel and Loretta Lynn in 2013 and 2003, respectively).

Linda Ronstadt, sitting there, has all the senses in the world. James Taylor sitting there has all the senses in the world, he said. I don’t see myself as an influence.

The Oklahoma native is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, seven-time Country Music Association Artist of the Year and the only artist to record nine albums each selling 10 million. He has been inducted into the International Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Musicians Hall of Fame. Last year he received the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress for popular song.

Brooks was on tour last year when the coronavirus forced venues to close, and he said he missed performing and attending concerts as a fan. I appreciated the Gershwin Prize because I got to sit there and be a fan. It reminded me a lot of how important and essential music is, he said, his voice captivating with emotion.

A graduate in Fine Arts from Howard University, Allen has directed and choreographed for a selection of all-star artists including Michael Jackson, James Earl Jones, his sister Phylicia Rashad, Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton. She played the role of Lydia Grant on the television series Fame in the 1980s, and now has a recurring role in Grays Anatomy, where she is executive production director. She has directed episodes of Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Jane the Virgin, Empire and Insecure.

Allen, 70, has deep connections to the Kennedy Center, where she served as artist in residence, attended the 2019 opening festival of her expansion, The Reach, and performed as a tribute to Lena Horne in 1984. She was a member of the Artists Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors, which offered her an overview of the event.

I know there is a huge roster of worthy candidates for this honor, people who have contributed to the world and their communities through the arts, she said. The legacy is incredible.

This year’s format will be different for several reasons, she said. This is in fact the first year in a few years that he is getting back on track. It was very difficult for the Kennedy Center to move forward, at a time when there was a rift in Washington and a president who didn’t seem to want to come or participate, she said, referring to the President Trump, who skipped all three honors held during his tenure.

The arts are like the Olympics, Allen added. It’s time to define our differences and each other’s agendas and truly celebrate the arts for how we can uplift the world.

Allen said she hopes to be in Washington in May for the ceremony regardless of its form. Different sometimes can be good, she said. Different might not be what you want, but you find a new recipe when you don’t have all the ingredients.

Born in Osaka, Japan, Midori, 49, has performed with dozens of orchestras and major classical musicians over her 35-year career. At the age of 11, she performed with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Zubin Mehta, and in the decades that followed, toured the world, performing with the symphony orchestras of London, Chicago and San Francisco as well as with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Kennedy Center. .

In 1987, she performed with violinist Pinchas Zukerman in tribute to laureate Nathan Milstein. It was very festive, she remembers.

In addition to her recording and performing career, Midori works with young people in her Midori & Friends program in New York and Music Sharing, a foundation that focuses on the traditions of classical and Japanese music. She spent the pandemic with her mother in New York, where she is working on digital projects, both effective and educational.

Midori applauded the Kennedy Center for moving forward with the annual celebration despite the delays and limitations imposed by the coronavirus. What that means for the arts, in this particular time, it gives us a sense of motivation and energy, and how we can look to restart our lives, she said.

I think it’s an opportunity. Not to dismiss what was in the past, but it makes us appreciate the story even more, she said.

Van Dyke answered his phone Tuesday morning chanting the opening bars of Put on a Happy Face, and immediately gushed about the upcoming prize and the difficulty of keeping it a secret.

I am so happy. They told me months ago and I said I’m 95, you just went under the wire, he said. I want to stay alive. I’m not leaving without it.

Van Dykes’ career spans 70 years and includes leading roles on Broadway, film and television. He won a Tony Award for his Broadway work in Bye Bye Birdie and appeared in the films Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dick Tracy and in the films Night at the Museum. He won three Emmys for The Dick Van Dyke Show, a comedy series that debuted in 1961 and spanned six seasons. Its 158 episodes continue to be broadcast.

Because of covid, the kids are stuck at home and I’ve developed a whole new fan club, Van Dyke said. It’s just fun to be recognized at the market by a 5 year old.

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