Contact: Matt Raymond, (202) 707-0020
Contact: Cecily Van Praagh, (703) 998-2756
Website: Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
February 16, 2009
President Obama Gives Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Stevie Wonder Feb. 25
PBS Broadcast Feb. 26; Stevie Wonder Plays Commissioned Piece Feb. 23 at Library of Congress
President Barack Obama will give the Second Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Stevie Wonder on Feb. 25 at a special concert in the East Room of the White House in celebration of African American History Month. The program, to be taped by WETA Washington, D.C., as part of the In Performance at the White House series, will air on PBS stations nationwide on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, at 8 p.m. ET (check local listings) as "Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize."
The concert will feature a tribute by top performers singing the songs that propelled Wonder to the ranks of international stardom. The full line-up of performers will be announced soon.
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was created by the Library of Congress to honor artists whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.
"Stevie Wonder is the epitome of what the Gershwin Prize stands for," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who selected Stevie Wonder for the honor in September 2008. "He has crossed musical and cultural boundaries and has made contributions to humanity far beyond the realm of entertainment."
The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. Paul Simon in 2007 received the first Gershwin Prize.
As an added distinction to this year’s Gershwin Prize, the Library has offered, and Stevie Wonder has accepted, a musical commission. He joins a group of eminent composers who have received Library commissions, ranging from Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein to Paquito D’Rivera. Stevie Wonder will present the piece at a recital in honor of the Gershwin Prize Feb. 23 in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium.
Details about Stevie Wonder’s career can be found here.
The creators and executive producers of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song are Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr, who are also the creators and executive producers of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, now in its 11th year. Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson are executive producers for WETA Washington, D.C.
In making the selection for the prize, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington turned for advice to leading members of the music and entertainment communities. The advisory committee consisted of Michael Feinstein, Lorne Michaels, Phil Ramone, Paul Simon and Allen Toussaint.
"In Performance at the White House" began with an East Room recital by the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1978, and since then has embraced virtually every genre of American music: pop, country, gospel, jazz and the blues among them. The series, created by public broadcaster WETA Washington, D.C., and spanning every presidential administration since President Carter, was developed to showcase the rich fabric of American culture in the setting of the nation’s most famous home. Past programs have showcased such talent as the United States Marine Band, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, the best of Broadway musicals and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. "Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize" is the first "In Performance" of President Barack Obama’s Administration.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal," "The Kennedy Center Presents," and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including "THE WAR" and coming this fall, "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea." Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.
PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans -- from every walk of life -- the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 115 million people on-air and online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and Web site, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
The Library of Congress is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, the world’s preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers. It contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into their careers and personalities, including manuscripts and printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. A permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work, the Gershwin Room features George’s piano and desk, Ira’s typing table and typewriter, self portraits of both brothers, and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as "Lady Be Good," "Funny Face," "Girl Crazy" and "Of Thee I Sing." Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its Web site at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at myLOC.gov.
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