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The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Opening Concert: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

In Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's Inauguration:
The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Opening Concert

January 20, 2011 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall

The Kennedy Center announces the performers and presenters for the opening concert of The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration to take place at 7 p.m. on January 20, 2011 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Performers and presenters including Harolyn Blackwell, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, The Manzari Brothers, Terrence McNally, Lorne Michaels, and Paul Simon will join hosts Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols to celebrate the legacy of the 35th president of the United States. American Ballet Theatre will perform The Dying Swan.

Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Music Director Christoph Eschenbach will conduct the NSO in the world premiere composition by Peter Lieberson with narration by Morgan Freeman titled Remembering JFK: An American Elegy. The work was commissioned by the Kennedy Center and includes text taken from President Kennedy's speeches and writings.

The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Opening Concert, on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration, will commence a three-weeklong series of performances and events that commemorate the president who led the United States into the modern era of global participation. The series, titled The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, will feature three concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra January 22-24 that include Peter Lieberson's newly composed Remembering JFK: An American Elegy and Leonard Bernstein's Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy; three evening-length performances of mixed repertory by American Ballet Theatre which includes favorite works of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; tributes to historic performances given at the White House by Pablo Casals and Grace Bumbry performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Denyce Graves respectively; re-creations of the "Concerts for Young People by Young People" as well as other free programming on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage; a new theater work solicited by colleges and universities around the country that exemplifies President Kennedy's legacy; an exhibition by VSA that features the work of artists with severe or intellectual disabilities to honor President Kennedy's signing of the first major legislation to address mental illness in 1963; and a newly commissioned play for young audiences and their families based on two collections of poetry selected by Caroline Kennedy titled American Scrapbook: A Celebration of Verse.

Less than a month before his death, President Kennedy said, "I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well."

The Kennedy Center is a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, a fitting tribute to a leader who believed that the arts can help shape the national character and bring understanding between nations. The initiative for a national performing arts center began in 1958 when President Eisenhower signed legislation creating a National Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. When President Kennedy took office two years later, he brought a new energy to the capital's cultural life and strengthened the commitment for a national performing arts center. President and Mrs. Kennedy highlighted the arts on a national level, recognizing the importance of artistic achievement while honoring the country's greatest artists in the White House and elsewhere. President Kennedy envisioned the National Cultural Center not only as "a great stage hospitable to the best," but also as an educational institution "encouraging the development of the performing arts in all their diversity of origin and variety of form." Today the Kennedy Center entertains, educates, and inspires millions of people each year through thousands of performances in Washington, broadcasts, touring productions, and educational efforts that reach around the world.