Author: Lisa DuBois
Date: February 10, 2011
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is recognized as a powerful force in funding Art and is dedicated to artistic excellence in every way .The NEA paves the way for the projects that pass the test on creativity , originality and talent. In four decades they have awarded over 4 billion dollars to exceptional Art Projects in the United States. The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. In 1995 it was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre.
The NEA is not limited to Art but also supports music, Musical theatre, Opera and dance. One of the most important accomplishments has been the Jazz Masters program held annually.
Once a year, The National Endowment of the Arts and Jazz at Lincoln Center bring together the recognized Masters of Jazz and other jazz luminaries in Rose theatre at Lincoln Center for ceremony and celebration to honor the newly appointed Masters of Jazz. This year’s awardees are Hubert Laws, David Liebman, the Marsalis Family, Orrin Keepnews and Johnny Mandel. The new recipients are four extraordinary men who have carved their place in the history of Jazz.
Hubert Laws performed with Kenny Baron as Mr. Laws played a sweet version of “Stella by Starlight” with the pianist Kenny Barron (recipient of 2010). I overheard a woman tell Mr. Laws the piece brought her to tears.
Singer Roberta Gambarini and the saxophonist Jimmy Heath (Recipient of 2003) exquisitely performed the ballad “Angel Face.” Composed by Hank Jones with lyrics by Abbey Lincoln as a tribute to the 2 late Jazz Masters .
The orchestra also played behind awardee ,David Liebman’s soprano saxophone Gershwin There’s a Boat Dat’s Leaving’ Soon for New York.” and “Summertime”
Rocco Landesman, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, announced early in the program that each awardees received 25,000 in addition to the award money, the endowment was distributing $250,000 in grants to 15 nonprofit arts organizations across the country
The entire Marsalis Family was awarded , the first family ever to be awarded together.
A highlight of the event included a film created by the NEA of each member; the films were informative and heartwarming with testimony by friends and colleagues .As I watched, I could clearly see why each of these men deserved to be given this most prestigious award. Rose theatre, the place where it all happens is not just any theatre it was designed by Artistic Director, Wynton Marsalis in conjunction with the ( Jazz at Lincoln Center committee) and the best international theatre planners. It was tailored acoustically and is considered the premier Jazz performance hall in the world. Rose Hall has also proven to be perfect for opera, theater, symphonies This unique theatre would satisfy the most discriminating aficionado of music, the décor has a imperial feel to it with its rich wood veneer private boxes . The lighting crew is superb creating a very special mood.