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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Monday, February 13, 2012

IU Jacobs School of Music professor Watts receives 2011 National Medal of Arts

Feb. 13, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Jacobs School of Music professor of piano André Watts has received the 2011 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and art patrons by the United States government.

President Barack Obama bestowed the medal during a ceremony today, Feb. 13, in the East Room of the White House. While Watts was unable to attend, he expressed his gratitude upon receiving the award.

"I am deeply humbled to receive the national medal and am especially proud to receive it from the White House and President Obama," Watts said. "The arts are an ever-present part of our lives, and the broad representation of awardees this year is a powerful testament to the cultural diversity of our nation."

"The students, faculty and staff celebrate the honor that President Obama has bestowed on Professor Watts," said Gwyn Richards, dean of the Jacobs School. "As one of the world's most celebrated pianists and teachers, we cherish André's deep commitment to guiding a new generation of talented musicians in Bloomington."

A news release from the White House praised Watts' "superb technique and passionate intensity," saying those hallmarks of a 45-year career make him a "perennial favorite with the most celebrated orchestras and conductors around the world."

Other 2011 National Medal of Arts winners include painter, printmaker and teacher Will Barnet; poet and author Rita Dove; actor and director Al Pacino; curator, art collector and philanthropist Emily Rauh Pulitzer; sculptor Martin Puryear; country music singer-songwriter Mel Tillis; and the United Service Organization (USO), an organization responsible for lifting the spirits of America's troops and their families through the arts.

The 2011 National Humanities Medal will also be awarded to nine individuals and organizations at the ceremony. For more about that award or recipients, visit

About André Watts
Watts entered the music scene in 1963 at the age of 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic in one of its Young People's Concerts, which was broadcast nationwide. Two weeks later, Bernstein asked him to substitute at the last minute for an ailing Glenn Gould to perform music by Franz Liszt with the Philharmonic, thus launching Watts' career in storybook fashion.

Watts has made frequent television appearances, performing with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His 1976 New York recital, which aired on the program "Live From Lincoln Center," was the first full-length recital broadcast in the history of television, and his performance at the 38th Casals Festival in Puerto Rico was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cultural Programming.

In 1988, Watts received the Avery Fisher Prize, one of the top individual honors for an American classical musician. At age 26, he was the youngest person ever to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and he has received numerous such honors from many of the nation's most respected conservatories. In 1984, the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University honored Watts with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

Watts, who holds the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music, joined the Jacobs faculty in 2004.

For more on the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, visit

About the National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts was established by Congress in 1984, and no more than 12 are given each year "to individuals or groups who, in the president's judgment, are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States," according to the National Endowment for the Arts. The endowment's advisory council, the National Council on the Arts, is responsible for recommending worthy individuals and organizations to the president.

For more information, visit