The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has
Peabody's Leon Fleisher to
be among those who will receive the 2007 Kennedy Center
Honors Award, one of the nation's highest
artistic tributes. The legendary pianist will be honored
alongside Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Martin
Scorsese and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson in recognition of
a lifetime of contributions to American
culture through the performing arts.
The 30th annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, to be
attended by President Bush, will be
held at the center on Dec. 2 and broadcast Dec. 26 on
In a letter to the Johns Hopkins community, President
William R. Brody described Fleisher, a
member of the Peabody faculty since 1959, as "a
prodigiously talented musician and a profoundly
"But, as significant as his music and his teaching
are, it is his life — even more than his art —
is an inspiration to us all," Brody said.
A prodigy hailed as the greatest of his generation,
Fleisher played with the San Francisco
Symphony at age 14, two years later made his debut at
Carnegie Hall in New York and quickly became
one of the most sought-after soloists and recitalists in
At the height of his powers, Fleisher, then in his
30s, was struck by a rare neurological
condition that robbed him of the use of his right hand.
Doctors told him he would never play again.
"But he never stopped," Brody said. "He never stopped
playing, focusing on the left-handed
repertoire. He never stopped teaching, shepherding
generations of students including the great
Peabody alumnus Andre Watts. He never stopped conducting,
bringing the sweet ecstasy of the
musical experience to countless audiences."
He also never stopped working to recover the use of
his right hand and his full musical powers.
Following a brain surgery, experimental treatments and
years of rehabilitation, Fleisher made a
dramatic comeback and in 1995 gave a performance at
Carnegie Hall, his first two-handed concert in
nearly four decades. Two Hands, Nathaniel Kahn's short
documentary about Fleisher's remarkable
journey, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007.