Five Marsalis family members among artists to receive NEA 'honors' grants

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010; C02

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced that 18 artists, from recognizable headliners to quiet craftsmen, will receive individual prizes in jazz, opera, folk and traditional arts.

The recipients will be awarded a total of $450,000, or $25,000 each, the endowment announced.

For the first time, the NEA bundled the announcements of their individual "honors" grants to underscore the endowment's continued support and acknowledgment of active artists, and to remind the agency's supporters that individual artists remain part of the NEA's broader programs. Most awards to individuals were eliminated by Congress in the 1990s after controversy erupted over a few artists who were criticized for obscene or controversial work. Only the honorary prizes, announced Friday, and literature grants to individuals were left intact.

In the field of jazz, the NEA cited five members of the Marsalis family, all jazz players and arts advocates; Hubert Laws, the versatile flutist; Grammy-award-winning composer and arranger Johnny Mandel; prolific saxophonist David Liebman; and writer and record producer Orrin Keepnews. Like the other artists, each NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships recipient is given $25,000, but the Marsalis configuration has to divvy up the winnings.

The NEA National Heritage Fellowships, another honor, are going to Ezequiel Torres, the Afro-Cuban bata drummer and drum builder; Gladys Kukana Grace, a Lauhala weaver; music and folklore scholar Judith McCulloh; Mike Rafferty, an Irish flute player; Kamala Lakshmi Narayanan, a proponent of Bharatanatyam, a southern Indian classical dance.

Also in the heritage category are: Yacub Addy, a Ghanaian-born drum master and educator; sweetgrass basket weaver Mary Jackson; Delano Floyd McCoury, a bluegrass guitarist and singer; and Jim "Texas Shorty" Chancellor, the champion fiddler.

The announcement also included four winners of NEA Opera Honors: soprano Martina Arroyo; composer Philip Glass; Eve Queler, music director of the Opera Orchestra of New York; and composer David DiChiera, general director of the Michigan Opera Theatre.

The recipients are chosen from among suggestions received from the public, which are reviewed and selected by panels of former honorees and other officials.

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