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In Performance at the White House -- Confirmed Talent List & Bios

In Performance at the White House - Celebrating the Music of Stevie Wonder:
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize

An evening of celebration with President and Mrs. Obama at the White House in honor of musician Stevie Wonder’s receipt of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The concert takes place February 25 and will include performances by Wonder with a cavalcade of popular musicians, performing a selection of Wonder’s hit songs. The sixty-minute program, to be taped by WETA Washington, D.C., airs Thursday, February 26, 2009, at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.)

Confirmed Talent List (2/23/09)

Tony Bennett
Wayne Brady
Anita Johnson
Diana Krall
Mary Mary
Martina McBride
Rickey Minor (Band Director/Leader)
Paul Simon
Esperanza Spalding

Talent Bios

Singer-songwriter-producer India.Arie has sold over 8 million albums worldwide. Her honors include 17 Grammy nominations, 2 Grammy Awards, 4 NAACP Image Awards, and various awards from BET, Billboard, MTV, VH–1, Vogue, Essence, and others. Her songs have appeared in such films as Sex and the City, The Secret Life of Bees, A Soldier’s Story, Radio, A Shark’s Tale and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Arie launched her own label, Soulbird Music, in June 2008 through Universal Republic, with the release of Anthony David’s album Acey Deucy and the Grammy-nominated single “Words,” a duet with Arie.

Tony Bennett moves hearts and touches souls. He is an international treasure honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World Award. He has received thirteen Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Bennett became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005, and was named an NEA Jazz Master in January of 2006. He was also named the recipient of Billboard magazine’s elite Century Award. He has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta bestowed their “Salute to Greatness Award” upon him for his efforts in fighting discrimination.

Wayne Brady is one of the most versatile performers in show business today. He became well known for his improvisational skills on ABC’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?, for which he won one Emmy and earned four nominations. Brady picked up two Emmys for Outstanding Talk Show Host for The Wayne Brady Show. In September 2008 Brady’s debut R&B album A Long Time Coming was released by Peak Records. He continues to tour the country with his own live shows featuring improvisational comedy as well as song and dance. Currently, Brady can be seen at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Soprano Anita Johnson has been blessed with a voice of unfailingly lyrical grace, impeccable musicianship, and an onstage persona which has been described as “brilliant.” She has achieved critical and popular success both in the United States and abroad. Johnson has also been a frequent prize winner of various vocal competitions and awards, including National Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition; the Arnold Petersen Prize in Mannheim, Germany; the Opera Index Judges’ Award; and the Liederkranz Competition. Johnson created and performed a unique one-woman show entitled “ABC’S: American Black Composers’ Contributions to Our Musical Heritage.”

Diana Krall, whose cool, heavy-lidded vocals and strikingly sensitive piano-playing has helped her transcend barriers of genre to become a popular artist of the first order who has carved herself a permanent position at the top of the jazz charts. Her career took off when When I Look in Your Eyes won a Grammy for best jazz vocal and became the first jazz disc to be nominated for Album of the Year in twenty-five years. She has won two Grammys and has been nominated for eight.

When it comes to urban gospel superstars Mary Mary, everything is done on a big scale. All of their pursuits — musical, spiritual, or otherwise — are larger-than-life: not a single thing is left to chance. No matter the venture, the bar is always sky-high. Everything must be handled with an utmost sense of excellence. They are Grammy, Dove, Stellar, MOBO, and American Music Award winners. Their latest album The Sound was released in October of 2008. In addition to music, Mary Mary has created a bath and beauty line, a designer t-shirt collection, children’s books and much more.

Grammy Award-winner Martina McBride is a producer, artist and songwriter. Her powerhouse voice has earned her more than 18 million in album sales, and garnered 22 Top 10 singles, six of which ranked number one. She’s received numerous awards including a record-tying four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. The Kansas native’s fiery, passionate vocals have created such signature hits as “Independence Day,” “Wild Angels,” “A Broken Wing,” “Blessed” and “This One’s for the Girls.” McBride will release her 10th studio album, SHINE, on March 24th. The new single, “Ride”, is Top 20 at Billboard.

Rickey Minor is a legendary music director, composer, and music producer. He was Whitney Houston’s musical director during her world tours and is currently the bandleader on American Idol and Don’t Forget the Lyrics! He recently published the book, “There’s No Traffic on the Extra Mile.”

During his distinguished career Paul Simon has received many awards and prizes, including 12 Grammy Awards, three for album of the year. Graceland was selected as part of the Library’s National Recording Registry. Simon is also a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree. Simon was the first American artist invited by President Nelson Mandela to perform in post-apartheid South Africa. Paul Simon received the first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize.

Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope, and bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. She is the 2005 recipient of the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship. The newest chapter of 24-year-old Spalding’s journey begins with the release of her international debuted recording for Heads Up in May 2008. The album will be the first opportunity for the worldwide audience to witness her talents as an instrumentalist, vocalist and composer.

WILL.I.AM has helped The Black Eyed Peas become one of the most popular groups in music. They have sold 18 million albums worldwide and have won three Grammy awards. On his own, has established himself as one of music’s top producers. He has collaborated on tracks with Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Kelis, Nas, The Game, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Sergio Mendes, Carlos Santana, The Pussycat Dolls, Busta Rhymes and fellow Black Eyed Pea, Fergie. He is a highly revered, sought-after musician, songwriter and producer.

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