Kennedy Center Honors go to Arroyo, Hancock, Joel, MacLaine, Santana

The Kennedy Center Honors will be celebrating the careers of four musicians and an actress known for music herself. The 2013 honorees are opera singer Martina Arroyo, pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, pop and rock star Billy Joel, actress and dancer Shirley MacLaine, and rock guitarist Carlos Santana.

Medallions will be presented to these five artist on December 7 at a dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. A star-studded celebration will then be recorded on December 8 with President Barack Obama attending. That 36th annual special will air on CBS December 29.

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said, “Martina Arroyo has dazzled the world with her glorious soprano voice and continues to share her artistry with a new generation of opera singers; Herbie Hancock has established himself as one of the most innovative musicians in the world, constantly breaking musical barriers and redefining the art of jazz; Billy Joel’s melodies have provided the soundtrack of our lives for over four decades making him one pop music’s most prolific and memorable singers and songwriters; the remarkable breadth and range of Shirley MacLaine’s acting has left an indelible impression over a nearly 60-year career on stage and screen; from his legendary performance at Woodstock to his sweep at the 2000 Grammys and beyond, Carlos Santana’s artistry transcends genres while entertaining millions.”

Last year, various advocacy groups pointed out that only two Hispanics — Placido Domingo (2000) and Chita Rivera (2002) — numbered among the 185 people feted to date. Arroyo and Santana now become the third and fourth Hispanics chosen.

Rivera was part of a new committee that winnowed down the list of potential recipients from 20 to 10. Joining her were 2011 honoree Yo Yo Ma; opera singer Harolyn Blackwell and ballet dancer Damian Woetzel who sit on the Artist Committee; and board members Cappy McGarr and Elaine Wynn. The Artist Committee, which comes up with the original list of 20, was expanded as well to ensure the broadest of representation. And the public petitioned the committee with their choices.

However, even with these new mechanisms in place, the five honorees were still determined by the executive committee of the Kennedy Center board of trustees who decided based on the recommendations of the Center chair, president and the producers of the kudocast who culled from this list of 10 possibilities.

The 2012 edition of the Kennedy Center Honors competes at the Emmy Awards this weekend as Best Variety Special. It honored Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, Led Zeppelin, David Letterman, and Natalia Makarova. Use the easy drag-and-drop menu below to predict whether it will win.

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