Perfect Pitch: At the White House

by patrickmccoy

Obama honored members of the arts community with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities. 

WPAS President, Jenny Bilfield, accepted the medal on behalf of the venerable arts organization. (Photo by Ralph Alswang)

In the words of Washington Performing Arts Society’s President Emeritus Neale Perl, it was a “great day for the arts” last Wednesday as the National Medal of Arts and Humanities were presented to individuals for their immense contributions in their creative fields. Among the honorees were two Washington Life “Perfect Pitch” standouts: soprano Renée Fleming, who was featured in December 2012, and newcomer Jenny Bilfield, seen in the March 2013 issue. As the semi-new president of WPAS, Bilfield accepted the award on behalf of the whole organization and dedicated it to Washington’s art community.

“The medal awarded to Washington Performing Arts Society is joyously shared and celebrated by our remarkable community — the many partners, students, educators, artists, audience members, supporters, staff and board,” said Bilfield. “Together they have contributed to making WPAS an organization that equally values, and shares, education and superlative achievement in the arts.”

Spotted among the crowd in the East Room were WPAS Chairman Reginald Van Lee, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, WPAS President Emeritus Douglas H. Wheeler, prominent Washington attorney Riley K. Temple and WPAS administrators Roger Whyte II and Darren Thomas.  Other notable honorees included the esteemed actress Anna Deveare Smith, musician Allen Touissant and filmmaker George  Lucas. 

In addition to Bilfield, another "Performing Arts" interviewee was honored: soprano Renee Fleming. (Photo by Ralph Alswang)

In addition to Bilfield, another “Performing Arts” interviewee was honored: soprano Renee Fleming. (Photo by Ralph Alswang)

President Barack Obama seemed to be genuinely excited about presenting the special medals to the honorees. “Frankly, it’s fun for me because I feel like I know y’all,” he said in his opening remarks. “We celebrate these individuals not just because of their talent…but because they create something new in a new space.”

It was quite a poignant moment to witness the arts given such a high regard in the majestic space of The White House.

Recently named among the Forty Under 40 for his contributions to arts and humanitiesPatrick D. McCoy received a B.M. in vocal performance from Virginia State University and a M.M. in church music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va.  He has contributed arts and culture pieces to CBS Washington, The Afro-American Newspaper and the newly published book, “In Spite of the Drawbacks” (Association of Black Women Historians), which includes his chapter on legendary soprano Leontyne Price.  McCoy  has interviewed some of the most acclaimed artists of our  time, including Renée FlemingDenyce Graves, Norman Scribner, Julian Wachner, Christine Brewer and Lawrence  Brownlee.   Listen to these interviews and others  at Blog Talk Radio. McCoy may be reached via email at and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.

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