Kennedy Center Honors: Debbie Allen, Dick Van Dyke, Garth Brooks among those selected for annual award

A singer, a dancer and an actor who sings and dances will all be lauded for their contributions to the arts as part of the Kennedy Center Honors.

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Choreographer and Actress Debbie Allen, singer/songwriters Garth Brooks and Joan Baez, violinist Midori and actor, who is also known for his dancing and musical roles, Dick Van Dyke have all been selected for the 43rd annual honors.

Normally slated for December, but postponed until May 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony will change. Instead of a night of star-studded performances on the main stage in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, the event will include “small, in-person events” and virtual tributes with “multiple events for physically-distance audiences in locations across the Kennedy Center’s campus,” “Good Morning America” reported.

The events will have performances and tributes for each of the honorees held throughout the week of May 17.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said of the event in a statement:

“This past year has taught us many things including the need to be flexible and adaptable.

“They say necessity is the mother of all invention. The unusual circumstances inspired and opened up new ways for us to present a deeper experience, and hopefully understanding, of the art and lifetime work of our Honorees. 2020 has also shined a bright light on the impact of how art and culture speaks to our collective human experience. It can meet us at any moment—and sustain us during the most challenging days. Each of the 43rd Kennedy Center Honorees and their work continues to speak to American culture and our national fortitude. We are thrilled to be able to fete these cultural icons in a time where the world and the nation needs the arts more than ever.”

Debbie Allen

Allen graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater and Classical Greek Studies. She has four honorary doctorates and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She is an award-winning producer, director, writer, actor and choreographer who has choreographed the Academy Awards 10 times.

“I am truly humbled to be named a Kennedy Center Honoree 2020. This is so much more than our nation’s Highest Artistic Award, it is a measure of how my footprint has resonated as a path of light over the years and in this time of tremendous uncertainty, fear, and search for hope. This glorious achievement I share with my family, mentors, and students who have inspired and pushed me all the way. I look forward to being part of a fresh start for America and reminding the world how essential the Performing Arts are in our lives. Much Gratitude,” she said in a statement released by the Kennedy Center.

Joan Baez

Baez’s career started in 1960 with her self-titled debut album and her career has spanned six decades. In addition to her music, she has been on the front lines of the civil rights movements, marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the Free Speech Movement. She also spoke out against the Vietnam War and counted Nelson Mandela as one of her oldest friends.

Baez said of her Kennedy Center Honor:

“It has been my life’s joy to make art. It’s also been my life’s joy to make, as the late Congressman John Lewis called it, ‘good trouble.’ What luck to have been born with the ability to do both; each one giving strength and credibility to the other. I am indebted to many for a privileged life here. I’ve tried to share my good fortune with others anywhere and everywhere in the world. Sometimes there have been risks, but they are only a part of the meaning of it all. I extend my deepest thanks to the Kennedy Center for recognizing me, my art, and the good trouble I’ve made.”

Garth Brooks

Brooks has won the CMA Entertainer of the Year award seven times. He also has received nine Diamond Awards for his albums certified by the RIAA with more than 10 million sales each. He is the No. 1 selling solo artist in U.S. history with 157 million album sales.

He was named a Billboard Music Icon in 2020 and recently released a new studio album as well as a new live album.

Brooks said of the honor:

“President John F. Kennedy was a childhood hero of mine, and he has continued to be through every stage of my life. He knew that a nation is defined by its culture and a culture is defined by its arts. I have watched many of my heroes sit in that booth during their ceremony, I have even had the joyous honor of singing for some of them on their special night. The hope is to have contributed to humanity like my heroes have, to inspire us to be the most we can be as individuals, global citizens, and a part of human history. But most of all, to simply laugh, cry, love, and dream through music...I have been blessed to do just that as a fan and as an artist.”

Midori

Midori has been a leading concert violinist for more than 35 years, performing with the London, Chicago and San Francisco symphonies. as well as the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfuns, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Her latest recording was released in October.

She founded several non-profit organizations including Midori & Friends to give New York City youth exposure to music.

Midori started playing violin with her mother at an early age, performing with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11.

Midori said of her Kennedy Center Honor:

“Artists have a singular responsibility, through our work and deeds, to echo and mirror our society and serve its needs. As a new chapter of life is about to begin for all of us, I especially feel the current moment’s necessities and opportunities to explore a spring of new and preserved energies and discoveries, to play my part in seeking various avenues and forms of creativity and recovery. From an early age, I have been gifted with extraordinary experiences. I consider them to be my treasure and fortune that I might now draw upon. I wish to accomplish much going forward. My plans are to be making music again, in both pioneering and traditional ways, to sing out and to stir what lies within us, to describe mysteries, of the heart and of the mind. So, in the spirit of peace and connectivity through this country and the world, I am thrilled to be a recipient of one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, as we, together, reach toward renewed expression of the dreams and hopes that unify us all.”

Dick Van Dyke

Van Dyke is a star of the stage as well as the small and big screen in shows like “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” for which he won three Emmy Awards, and films like “Mary Poppins.” He also starred on Broadway in “Bye Bye Birdie,” earning a Tony Award.

He has also authored two best-selling books.

Van Dyke said of his honor:

“Many years ago, I was the host of a similar event held, as I recall, in private with the Kennedy family. I saw the care with which the recipient was chosen from an impressive list of nominees. Since the creation of the Kennedy Center Honors, just over 200 have been honored with equal care. Being included in that small, illustrious group, is the thrill of my life.”

The show will be broadcast on June 6 on CBS, NPR reported.


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