Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama presents Sonny Rollins with his National Medal of Arts.
President Barack Obama presents Sonny Rollins with his National Medal of Arts. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
At a short ceremony at the White House today, President Barack Obama presented 20 people with the 2010 National Medal of Arts or the National Humanities Medal. The Arts honorees included Sonny Rollins, the venerated saxophonist, and Quincy Jones, the composer/arranger/producer whose musical roots in jazz are deep.
The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States Government.
After brief remarks, during which President Obama mentioned that he once owned Sonny Rollins albums on vinyl, Obama presented each award individually, while a short prepared statement was read. Here are the statements for Jones and Rollins:
Quincy Jones for his extraordinary contributions to American music as a musician, composer, record producer, and arranger. As a master inventor of musical hybrids, he has mixed pop, soul, hip-hop, jazz, classical, African, and Brazilian music into many dazzling fusions, traversing virtually every medium, including records, live performances, movies, and television.
Sonny Rollins for his contributions to American jazz music. Widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians of the post-bebop era, Mr. Rollins' melodic sensibilities, playing style, and solos have delighted audiences and influenced generations of musicians for over 50 years.
In a statement issued in a press release yesterday, Rollins said, "I'm very happy that jazz, the greatest American music, is being recognized through this honor, and I'm grateful to accept this award on behalf of the gods of our music."
From the video feed at whitehouse.gov/live, Rollins and Obama appeared to exchange words while both on stage. Inquiring minds wish to know what exactly was said.