Cornish College Honors Tony Kushner and Deborah F. Rutter at 2014 Commencement Today

President Nancy J. Uscher has announced that Cornish College of the Arts will award honorary degrees at this year's commencement to ground-breaking American playwright Tony Kushner and to Deborah F. Rutter, president-elect of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Kushner is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Tony and Emmy Awards, and a recipient of the National Medal for Arts. One of the nation's leading arts administrators, Ms. Rutter assumes leadership of the Kennedy Center in September. Most recently she has served as president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and, prior to that, she was the executive director of the Seattle Symphony.

"Cornish College of the Arts is thrilled to have the opportunity to confer honorary degrees upon Tony Kushner and Deborah F. Rutter at our forthcoming Commencement," said President Uscher. "Our community will be inspired to have these truly outstanding artists accept their honors from Cornish as we also celebrate each and every graduating student."

President Uscher will confer degrees on more than 180 graduating seniors at this year's ceremony. Tony Kushner will deliver the commencement address. The Cornish Commencement will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 10, at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.Cornish College of the Arts awards Bachelor of Music degrees and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in art, dance, design, performance production, and theater.

This year for the first time, notable Cornish alumni will also be honored at the Cornish Commencement with two new awards - The Distinguished Recent Alumni Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award. The Distinguished Recent Alumni Award will be presented to Grammy-nominated musician and Capitol recording artist Mary Lambert (Cornish class of 2011).

The Distinguished Alumni Award, given to an alumna or alumnus who is at least 10 years past graduation, will be presented to celebrated dancer and educator Amy O'Neal (Cornish class of 1999).

Says President Uscher, "We are delighted to honor our distinguished alumni Mary Lambert and Amy O'Neal at this year's Commencement. Both of these splendid and original artists have made very meaningful contributions to the arts and culture. Through their work, Amy and Mary have made powerful statements about their artistic integrity. Their engagement as artist-citizens will surely inspire our students to imagine their futures with a sense of optimism and rich possibility."

For more information about the Cornish College of the Arts Commencement, contact the Office of Registration and Records at 206-726-5069.

More About This Year's Honorees:

Tony Kushner's plays include A Bright Room Called Day; Angels in America, Parts One and Two; Slavs!; Homebody/Kabul; the musical Caroline, or Change and the opera A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, both with composer Jeanine Tesori; and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. He has adapted and translated Pierre Corneille's The Illusion, S.Y. Ansky's The Dybbuk, Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan and Mother Courage and Her Children; and created the English-language libretto for the opera Brundibár by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols' film of Angels in America, and for Steven Spielberg's Munich and Lincoln. His books include Brundibar, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. Mr. Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, an Emmy Award, two Oscar nominations, and the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, among other honors. In 2012, he was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.

Deborah F. Rutter (President, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and President-elect, Kennedy Center) - Driven throughout her career by the belief that live concert music has the power to transform people's lives, Deborah F. Rutter is one of the leading arts administrators in the nation. Known for emphasizing collaboration, innovation and community engagement, her dynamic influence has helped to further enhance the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's reputation as one of the world's most highly acclaimed orchestras. The appointment of the legendary conductor Maestro Riccardo Muti as the Orchestra's 10th music director and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the first Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant are two of the key highlights demonstrative of Rutter's leadership.

Ms. Rutter will become President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on September 1, 2014. She will be the artistic and administrative director of the world's busiest performing arts center, managing all facets of the Center, including expansive theater, contemporary dance, ballet, chamber music, and jazz seasons as well as its affiliates the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera. The Center encompasses one of the nation's largest arts education programs, reaching millions of people of all ages each year, and includes VSA, the international organization on arts and disability.

Prior to joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Rutter was executive director of the Seattle Symphony from November 1992 until 2003. When Rutter departed for the CSOA, the Seattle Symphony had nearly tripled its annual budget to $25 million, had no accumulated deficit and the endowment had grown six-fold to $24 million. During her tenure in Seattle, a new facility, Benaroya Hall, with two concert venues and an educational facility called Soundbridge, were built and are thriving today. Under her watch, programming grew exponentially including city-wide musical festivals and other community engagement activities. From 1986 to 1992, she served as executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and prior to that she was the orchestra manager of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Ms. Rutter is involved in a number of national and local cultural organizations and currently is a member of the board of Arts Alliance Illinois, the League of American Orchestras, Choose Chicago, the Grant Park Conservancy, the Solti Foundation, After School Matters and the Cultural Advisory Council for the City of Chicago. She is a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, The Chicago Network, and the Economic Club of Chicago; she also is a visiting committee member for the University of Chicago Department of Music. In 2012, she was named to Chicago Magazine's list of "100 Most Powerful Chicagoans."

Ms. Rutter previously served as a board member and president of The Washington State Arts Alliance Board of Directors, the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, and the prestigious Curtis Institute Board of Overseers.

Ms. Rutter is a graduate of Stanford University and holds an MBA from the University of Southern California. She was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in the Los Angeles area. She studied piano and violin from an early age, and she played violin with orchestras throughout her education.

Mary Lambert graduated from Cornish in 2011 with a B.M. in music composition. In only three years, she has recorded and toured with fast-breaking rapper Macklemore, shared a stage with Macklemore, Madonna and Queen Latifa at the 2014 Grammy Awards, and begun work on a new album for Capitol Records. Ms. Lambert's break came when she was chosen by Macklemore to provide a song-within-a-song for his hit single in support of gay marriage "Same Love." Ms. Lambert shared the Grammy nomination for the song and The Heist, the album on which it appears. Ms. Lambert spun off her contribution to "Same Love" as "She Keeps Me Warm," which has been well received by critics and audiences alike. "She Keeps Me Warm" is ranked in Adult Top 20 radio nationally, and has sold over 100,000 units. Ms. Lambert released her first EP with Cap Records in December, titled Welcome to the Age of My Body, and is at work on her first full-length record with Eric Rosse (record producer Tori Amos and Sara Bareilles) scheduled for release in the fall.

Amy O'Neal is a diverse dancer, performer, choreographer, and dance educator based in Seattle WA. She is the recipient of numerous grants including awards from Creative Capital, the National Performance Network, the National Dance Project, Mid Atlantic Arts and the James W. Ray Artist Trust. Ms. O'Neal has been an artist-in-residence at Bates Dance Festival, Headlands Center for the Arts, the US/Japan Choreographer's Exchange, and Velocity Dance Center. She is a two-time Artist Trust Fellow, a DanceWEB Scholar, two-time Stranger Genius Awards nominee. She has worked extensively with musician/comedian Reggie Watts since 2002 both on stage and screen. She choreographed his Comedy Central produced "Fuck, Shit, Stack" video and toured nationally in his show Disinformation. She has created commissioned pieces for Degenerate Art Ensemble and Spectrum Dance Theater and collaborated with Savion Glover and Daniel Bernard Roumain through Seattle Theater Group. She has performed in the work of Pat Graney, Scott/Powell Performance, and Mark Haimand For the last 15 years, she has taught and performed throughout the US, Japan and Mexico and choreographed for stage, commercials, rock shows, galleries, dance films and music videos. Her work is an amalgam of her diverse movement and life experiences presenting social commentary with dark humor and heavy beats. From 2000 to 2010, she was co-director of locust (music/dance/video) with musician/composer Zeke Keeble, creating six evening-length works and several shorter works. She teaches contemporary dance and hip-hop at Velocity Dance Center and The Beacon: Massive Monkees studio in Seattle. She also teaches dance composition and improvisation for Seattle Theater Group's Dance This program and the Seattle Youth Dance Collective. She holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, and her dance writing has been published in Dance Magazine, City Arts Magazine, and ArtDish Forum.

About Cornish College of the Arts: A pioneer in arts education, Cornish College of the Arts sprang from the remarkable vision of Nellie Cornish, a woman determined to cultivate the arts in Seattle when it was scarcely more than a frontier town. Her philosophy of educating the artist through exposure to all the arts was progressive in 1914, and continues to be innovative today. The College offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Art, Dance, Design, Performance Production and Theater, a Bachelor of Music degree and an Artist Diploma in Early Music. The College is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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