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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heartfelt Congratulations, John!

President Obama will present the 2013 National Medal of Arts, the US government’s highest award for artists and arts patrons, to the music theater composer John Kander and 11 other honorees at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Nobody deserves this extraordinary honor more than John Kander who is not only one of the most prolific but also one of the nicest composers of Broadway. He started out as a rehearsal pianist for West Side Story. As the late Fred Ebb's partner he created perennial musical hits, such as Cabaret and Chicago. Some of his songs have become standards I only mention New York, New York. I met John Kander during my work on the adaptation of Kiss of the Spider Woman for the German stage. The other recipients of the medal are the novelist, poet and playwright Julia Alvarez; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Joan Harris, an arts patron; the dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones; Jeffrey Katzenberg, the director and CEO of DreamWorks; the novelist Maxine Hong Kingston; the documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles; the singer Linda Ronstadt; the architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams and the visual artist James Turrell. It is wonderful that the United States honor all of their best artists in such a ceremony, which, by the way, will be streamed live at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday at WH.gov/Live.  In continental Europe entertainment artists are still excluded from all public recognition except the audience applause.

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