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Washington Performing Arts’s Ambassador of the Arts Award was created in 2013, annually recognizing extraordinary achievement, service, and advocacy in the performing arts by an individual (see below for past honorees). For 2021, we are thrilled to present the Ambassador of the Arts Award to operatic bass and advocate for social justice Soloman Howard.

From his formative years in the 1990s, singing in our Children of the Gospel Choir, to his current status as a celebrated performer on the world’s most esteemed operatic stages, Soloman Howard has been a voice not only for artistic excellence but for inclusivity, working to share the arts with ever larger and more widespread audiences from all walks of life.

To learn more about the life and work of Soloman Howard, including his long history as a member of the Washington Performing Arts family, we invite you to watch the above video, featuring archival photos and footage and an original interview with Soloman Howard.

An Appreciation from our President & CEO

It is with great pleasure that we honor Soloman Howard with our Washington Performing Arts 2021 Ambassador of the Arts Award. Soloman has been such an exemplary artist, friend, and inspiration to all of us, especially those who have followed his path from his earliest days as a member of the Children of the Gospel Choir. He has played a key role in so many important Washington Performing Arts events and programs in recent years: our 2014 Of Thee We Sing celebration of Marian Anderson; the annual Living the Dream…Singing the Dream tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; our galas and Ambassador of the Arts Award celebrations; and our July 4, 2020 streaming collaboration with the United States Air Force Band. Crucially, he has also been a valued thought partner as we have intensified our investment in and strategic planning of our Gospel Music Programs. For all these contributions, and for his many achievements on stages and in communities throughout the world, we commend him sincerely and look forward to witnessing the new heights he is sure to reach!

—Jenny Bilfield

Soloman Howard with Children of the Gospel

Soloman Howard with Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir

Soloman Howard with Douglas Wheeler

Soloman Howard with Washington Performing Arts President Emeritus Douglas Wheeler

Soloman Howard with Denyce Graves

Soloman Howard with 2017 Ambassador of the Arts Award recipient, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves

The Recipients of the Ambassador of the Arts Award

  • Soloman Howard (2021), bass
  • Midori (2020), violinist, educator, and humanitarian
  • Sir James Galway (2019), flutist and educator
  • Lonnie G. Bunch III (2018), educator, historian, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Founding Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Denyce Graves (2017), mezzo-soprano and educator
  • Jacqueline Badger Mars (2016), business leader and philanthropist
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg† (2015), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
  • Leon Fleisher† (2014), pianist, conductor, and educator
  • Jessye Norman† (2013), soprano

† deceased

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