NATS member and acclaimed opera singer Martina Arroyo was one of five artists recognized at the The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Dec. 8, as part of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors. Other recipients honored at the 36th annual national celebration of the arts were pianist, keyboardist, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock; pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel; actress Shirley MacLaine; and musician and songwriter Carlos Santana.
According to an Associated Press story about the event, Arroyo found opera while imitating the singers outside an opera workshop when she was growing up in Harlem. Soon she was signing a contract with New York's Metropolitan Opera and had a breakthrough with "Aida" in 1965. She went on to star in the great opera houses of London, Paris and Vienna.
Opera star Jessye Norman told the AP that Arroyo, now 76, has a voice "that makes you happy to be alive, just to be in her audience."
President Barack Obama saluted the honorees Sunday night during the gala, and top entertainers offered tribute performances for each honoree. The gala will be broadcast on CBS Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET.
On Saturday night, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the honorees for a black-tie dinner at the State Department. Kerry said the artists had blazed trails and redefined the arts and American culture along the way.
"They are loved by so many, imitated by some, but never ever can they be replaced," Kerry said. "We are reminded that the role of arts can also never be replaced."