Violinist Itzhak Perlman has 16 Grammys, four Emmys, and two medals presented by two American presidents: the Medal of Liberty (Reagan, 1986) and the Medal of Arts (Clinton, 2000). The 70-year-old musician's swag stash will expand next week to include a Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be presented at the White House by Barack Obama.
Perlman is one of 17 2015 recipients of the Medal of Freedom, which honors "individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
You could award points in every one of those categories to Perlman, who in addition to his acclaimed musicianship is known for his contributions to music education and to intercultural exchange; in 1990, he joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for its first performance in the Soviet Union.
Further, the White House notes in a press release, "through his advocacy and his example," Perlman — who has walked with crutches since contracting polio at age four — "has been an important voice on behalf of persons with disabilities."
Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will also receive a Medal of Freedom on Tuesday, along with stage/screen star Barbra Streisand, singer-songwriter James Taylor, pop performer Gloria Estefan, music producer Emilio Estefan (Gloria's husband), and towering figures from other fields — including film director Steven Spielberg, whose Schindler's List soundtrack Perlman performed on, with music composed by John Williams.
Previous classical musicians who have received the Medal of Freedom include Marian Anderson (1963), Van Cliburn (2003), Aaron Copland (1964), Plácido Domingo (2002), Arthur Fiedler (1977), Vladimir Horowitz (1986), Yo-Yo Ma (2011), Eugene Ormandy (1970), Leontyne Price (1964), Mstislav Rostropovich (1987), Arthur Rubinstein (1976), Rudolf Serkin (1963), Beverly Sills (1980), and Isaac Stern (1992).
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