The American President, Barack Obama, has honoured the three famed artists with the highest civilian award in the US.
Itzhak Perlman, Stephen Sondheim and Barbra Streisand are among the 17 recipients of the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honour in America. President Barack Obama said in his written announcement that the winners are “men and women who have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”
The prestigious awards are presented each year to individuals who have made significant contributions to cultural endeavours, world peace, national interests or the security of the United States. Perlman, Sondheim and Streisand are also past recipients of the nation’s highest arts award – the National Medal of Arts.
Internationally renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 at the age of 18, and has since gone on to be one of the world’s most revered musicians. During his 42 year career he has won four Emmy Awards, 16 Grammy Awards, and the 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His world-class artistry touched millions as the soloist on John Williams’ score for Steven Spielberg’s retelling of the remarkable true story, Schindler’s List, which was recognised with an Oscar for Best Original Score. President Obama cited Perlman as a “treasured conductor and sought-after teacher [and] an important voice on behalf of persons with disabilities”.
Musical Theatre legend Stephen Sondheim is one of America’s most distinguished living composers and writers. His reputation has been catapulted to new heights in recent years through film adaptations of his musicals Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, which were both blockbuster hits around the world. In addition to his work as a composer, he has also been a high profile advocate for emerging talent as the founder of Young Playwrights, Inc., which develops and promotes the work of American playwrights under the age of 18. The Medal of Freedom will be the next accolade in a long list for Sondheim, which currently includes eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Global icon of stage and screen Barbra Streisand is one of the few artists to have received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony. President Obama described Streisand as “one of our nation’s most gifted talents [whose] body of work includes extraordinary singing, acting, directing, producing, and songwriting.” She was the first woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Director, which she won for the motion picture Yentl. In addition to four Peabody Awards and an Oscar for her role in Funny Girl, Streisand also won a special Tony Award in 1970 in recognition of her 1960s stage achievements.
The medals will be awarded in a ceremony on November 24 at the White House. Other artistic recipients for this year include filmmaker Steven Spielberg, pop musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and singer-songwriter James Taylor.