SAB Receives Nation's Highest Honor for Artistic Excellence

President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts to the School of American Ballet (SAB) on February 25, 2010, at The White House. The award presentation, which also recognized 11 additional individual and organization honorees, took place in an East Room ceremony. Peter Martins, SAB’s artistic director and chairman of faculty, accepted the medal from President Obama on behalf of the School.

The National Medal of Arts is a White House initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Each year, the NEA organizes and oversees the National Medal of Arts nomination process and notifies the artists of their selection to receive a medal, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. According to NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence is presented to individuals and organizations who represent the breadth and depth of American architecture, design, film, music, performance, theatre, and visual art.

Representing SAB at the White House ceremony along with Peter Martins were Executive Director Marjorie Van Dercook, Co-Chairman of Faculty Kay Mazzo and faculty member Darci Kistler.

“This recognition of SAB’s important contributions to America’s ballet tradition is a tremendous honor, and I am grateful to President Obama and the NEA for highlighting SAB’s accomplishments alongside such a distinguished collection of artists,” commented Peter Martins after accepting the award at the White House. “This medal is an outstanding commendation for the numerous individuals who have contributed to the School’s excellence and longevity -- our faculty, past and present, our many talented students who have become not only renowned performers but important leaders in the ballet world, and above all, SAB’s extraordinary founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, to whom we owe everything.”

The School of American Ballet has long been recognized for its achievements in forging a dynamic classical ballet tradition in the United States and is one of the world’s central institutions of ballet teaching. Founded by Lincoln Kirstein and the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, the school since its inception has been recognized for instilling Balanchine's incomparable standard of classical excellence in its students, who form a “who’s who” of American dance—among others Suzanne Farrell, Arthur Mitchell, Maria Tallchief , Ethan Stiefel and Darci Kistler, as well as Broadway stars Chita Rivera and Hinton Battle. The School, which is located at New York City's Lincoln Center and is the official academy of New York City Ballet, is led by artistic director Peter Martins.

Over the past 75 years, the Manhattan-based school has enrolled some 17,000 students, with over 2,000 having become professional dancers at New York City Ballet and countless other companies around the U.S. and abroad. Today, SAB-trained dancers appear on the rosters of over 65 U.S. and one dozen international companies. Students aged 6 to 18 are admitted by audition only and attend classes at SAB’s Lincoln Center headquarters.

In addition to the School of American Ballet, the 2009 National Medal of Arts was awarded to:

Bob Dylan, Singer, Songwriter

Clint Eastwood, Director, Actor

Milton Glaser, Graphic Designer

Maya Lin, Artist, Designer

Rita Moreno, Singer, Dancer, Actress

Jessye Norman, Soprano

Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Arts Patron, Design Advocate

Frank Stella, Painter, Sculptor

Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor

John Williams, Composer, Conductor

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Conservatory, Oberlin, OH