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White House Honors BMI Classical Composer, Bluegrass Legend

Posted in News on November 14, 2006
Pulitzer Prize-winning classical composer William Bolcom and legendary bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley are among the recipients of the 2006 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons through the U.S. government. Presented by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony at the White House on Nov. 9, the Arts Medal is awarded to those who "are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."

The President and Mrs. Bush stand in the Oval Office with the recipients of the 2006 National Medal of Arts. Pictured from left are: Ben Jaffe and his mother Sandra Jaffe, director and co-founder of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; literary translator Gregory Rabassa; dancer Cyd Charisse; photographer Roy DeCarava; industrial designer Viktor Schreckengost; musician Ralph Stanley; arts patron Billie Holladay; composer William Bolcom; Interlochen Center for the Arts CEO Jeffrey Kimpton; and NEA Chairman Dana Goia. photo by Paul Morse

William Bolcom, winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music, is known for his eclectic music that pulsates with vernacular from ragtime to reggae. His most celebrated works include the opera A View from the Bridge and his massive setting of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The composer/pianist and his collaborator and wife, Joan Morris, have recorded 20 albums together, specializing in show tunes, cabaret and popular songs from the early 20th-century. A 1953 BMI Student Composer Award winner, Bolcom has also received two Guggenheims, four Rockefeller Foundation awards, and four NEA fellowships. Since the fall of 1994, he has held the title of Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan; he joined the faculty in 1973.

William Bolcom Ralph Stanley

With a career that spans six decades as a recording and performing artist, multiple Grammy and IBMA Award-winning bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley was born in 1927 in the Clinch Mountains of Virginia, which inspired much of his music. He and his brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946, quickly gaining a following due to their broadcasts on WCYB in Bristol, Va. In addition to his son, Ralph II, many contemporary bluegrass artists came up through the Clinch Mountain Boys band, including Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks and Charlie Sizemore. The Grand Ole Opry member performed on the multi-platinum soundtrack for the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the surprise Album of the Year winner at the 2002 Grammy Awards ceremony.

Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Medal of Arts has been issued to over 200 individuals since its inception in 1984. Among the distinguished BMI recipients are blues giants B.B. King and Buddy Guy, country legends George Jones, Dolly Parton, Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff, jazz masters Dave Brubeck, Paquito D'Rivera and Betty Carter, concert composer Elliott Carter, and soul artist Ray Charles.