REVISED FEBRUARY 23, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize” will showcase an evening of celebration with President and Mrs. Obama at the White House in honor of musician Stevie Wonder’s receipt of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The sixty-minute program, to be taped by WETA Washington, D.C., airs Thursday, February 26, 2009, at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.) The concert takes place February 25 and will include performances by Wonder himself and India.Arie, Tony Bennett, Wayne Brady, Anita Johnson, Diana Krall, Martina McBride, Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding, Will.i.am and the gospel duo Mary Mary, among others, with Rickey Minor as the band director. President Obama will confer the Gershwin Prize upon Wonder during the event.
“WETA is so proud to carry on the vital thirty-year tradition of the ‘In Performance at the White House’ series,” said Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President and CEO of WETA. “These remarkable occasions have given each administration the ability to demonstrate its support of the arts and to share the experience with a wide public television audience. It is a delight to continue this series with the Obama Administration as we present the very best of the American performing arts.”
“In its 40th anniversary year, PBS is continuing its tradition of celebrating the performing arts and making them accessible to all Americans. ‘Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House’ promises to be a very special evening, and we are proud to invite our viewers a take a front row seat, right next to the First Family,” said Paula A. Kerger, President and CEO of PBS.
Wonder gained prominence in the early 1960s as a musical prodigy, and his dance hits and love songs have segued over the years into thoughtful commentaries on the joy and injustice in our world. Born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950, Wonder became blind shortly after birth. He learned to play the harmonica, piano and drums by age 9 and by age 12 he had received a recording contract from Motown Records. His numerous hits include “Fingertips,” “For Once in My Life,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “If You Really Love Me” and “You are the Sunshine of My Life.”
Over the years Wonder has delivered 32 No. 1 R&B and Pop singles, 49 Top 40 R&B and Pop singles, and garnered 25 Grammy Awards, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He collected an Academy Award for the 1984 hit “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from the film The Woman in Red. In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999, Wonder became the youngest honoree of the Kennedy Center Honors. He was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2004 he won the Johnny Mercer Award in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding creative work. In 2005, the Library of Congress added Wonder’s 1976 double album “Songs in the Key of Life” to the National Recording Registry, which recognizes recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
“In Performance at the White House,” produced by WETA since 1978, 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 was created 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, singer 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” will be the first “In Performance at the White House” program during President Barack Obama’s Administration.
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is named in honor of the legendary George and Ira Gershwin. This award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture. The prize is given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. The first Gershwin Prize was awarded to Paul Simon in May 2007.
For more information about “Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize,” visit www.pbs.org/inperformanceatthewhitehouse.
“Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize” is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress, Mark Krantz Productions and CoMedia. The “In Performance at the White House” series was created by WETA Washington, D.C. Executive producers and creators of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song are Robert Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr. WETA executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson. Major funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by Mr. and Mrs. William N. Cafritz, The Annenberg Foundation, Pepsi, ASCAP and EMI. Air travel is generously provided by American Airlines.
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.
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