Other performing-arts figures receiving the medal include Cuban clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, jazz musician and former White House lawyer Leonard Garment, country singer and songwriter Dolly Parton, and actor Robert Duvall. Also to be honored are writer Louis Auchincloss, animator and artist Ollie Johnston, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
The National Medal of the Arts is the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence. Artists are nominated by arts organizations and members of the public; those nominations are then narrowed by the National Council on the Arts before the president selects the recipients.
Marsalis is artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the most prominent jazz soloist of his generation. His compositions include Blood on the Fields, which won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1997—the first composition by a jazz musician to win the prize. James DePreist is director of conducting and orchestral studies at the Juilliard School and the former music director of the Oregon Symphony, L'Orchestre Symphonique de Qu_bec, Sweden's Malm‹ Symphony, and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic.
Rivera helped found Irakere, a highly influential Cuban rock-jazz ensemble, before defecting to the United States in 1981. He has since led jazz groups on more than 30 albums, as well as performing and recording extensively with classical groups. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master for 2005.
As a young man, Garment played saxophone with Billie Holiday, Woody Herman, and other major figures. He served as an advisor to Richard Nixon on the arts, counsel to the president, and U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in the 1970s. The former chair of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and co-chair of a commission that examined the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1990s, he recently helped to launch the Jazz Museum in Harlem.
Tina Ramirez is the founder and artistic director of Ballet Hispanico, which has performed a mix of ballet, modern, and Latin dance around the world since 1970. She has won the Dance Magazine Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award, the New York Governor's Arts Award, and other honors.