The National Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Jack Everly, gave a stirring account of Benjamin Britten’s St. James Passion, by way of saluting recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, including actor Al Pacino, pianist Martha Argerich, actress Rita Moreno, conductor Leonard Bernstein, dancer Alvin Ailey, and composer Leonard Bernstein.
One element missing from the past was any mention of women. Even for the Kennedy Center Honors that were awarded in 2013 and 2014, when honorees were retired astronaut Sally Ride, singer Barbara Cook, and dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, no women were mentioned.
To remedy that, Chair of the Kennedy Center Honors committee, Lynn Lackner, announced that “we are in the process of making final announcements.”
“It is a terrific thing that people are not far away from seeing about adding more women to our list of honorees,” says Adrienne Arsht. “We’ve taken the leadership role to make sure that this happens this year,” she adds.
The Kennedy Center Honors have always been considered a milestone moment for the arts in Washington, D.C. With millions of people watching, the awards ceremony is one of the largest and most-watched events on the Washington, D.C.’s cultural calendar.
The decision to honor women was a natural one. Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein announced in January that the center’s board of trustees had approved his support for adding women to the list of honorees. He had announced last December that the selection committee had settled on a list of female honorees to be announced at the show. The announcement, which was first reported by Entertainment Weekly, came in January.
At that time, Rubenstein said that after the selections of astronaut Sally Ride, singer Barbara Cook, and choreographer Debbie Allen, the committee was now tasked with choosing new women to honor.
The committee also announced that the performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the program would mark its 50th anniversary, and that Harrison Ford would be honored for his work in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”