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President presents Fleming with National Medal of Arts

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POTSDAM - Soprano Renée Fleming ‘81 was honored with one of the country’s highest honors in a ceremony at the White House this week.

President Barack Obama presented Fleming, a graduate of SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, with the 2012 National Medal of Arts, along with 11 other recipients. First Lady Michelle Obama also attended the East Room ceremony, which also recognized the winners of the 2012 National Humanities Medals.

According to her citation, Fleming was honored “for her contributions to American music. Known to many as ‘the people’s diva,’ Ms. Fleming has captivated audiences around the world with an adventurous repertoire spanning opera and the classical tradition to jazz and contemporary pop.”

“The work that we honor today, the lifetime achievement of these artists and these scholars, reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool that we have as a people. That’s why we celebrate their creativity and the fundamental optimism, the notion that if they work that hard somebody will actually pay attention,” President Obama said. “That’s why we have to remain committed to the dreamers and the creators and innovators who fuel that progress and help us light the way ahead, because our children, our grandchildren deserve to grow up in a country where their dreams know no bounds and their ambitions extend as far as their talents and hard work can take them.”

The other luminaries honored at the White House today included “Star Wars” director George Lucas and author Joan Didion, among others.

“The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam congratulates Renée Fleming on the recognition, through the National Medal of Arts, of her career as an extraordinary vocal artist, artistic spokesperson, and international cultural leader. Our admiration for Ms. Fleming’s magnificent achievements since her years as a student at Crane is deeply felt, as we continue to appreciate the impact she has had, and will continue to have, on the arts in America. She continues to inspire new generations of students at Crane, who aspire to her elegant example of artistry and accomplishment,” said Crane School of Music Dean Dr. Michael Sitton.

The honors keep rolling in for Fleming. This year, she was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was also named to the 2013 Gramophone Hall of Fame. In addition, she accepted her fourth Grammy Award in February, for Best Classical Vocal Solo. Fleming currently serves as the first-ever Creative Consultant for Lyric Opera of Chicago.

One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. Known as “the people’s diva,” she continues to grace the world’s greatest opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. Over the past few seasons, Fleming has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series for movie theaters and television, and Live From Lincoln Center on PBS.

As a musical ambassador, Fleming has been sought after on numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. In January 2009, Ms. Fleming was featured in the Inaugural celebration concert for President Obama. In 2012, in an historic first, she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II. She has also performed for the U.S. Supreme Court. An additional distinction was bestowed in 2008 when, breaking a precedent, Fleming became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.

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