Perlman to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Itzhak Perlman will be trekking to the White House just before Thanksgiving to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s seen here with his wife Toby during a summer concert at the Perlman Music Program. (Credit: Burt Farbman)

Itzhak Perlman will be trekking to the White House just before Thanksgiving to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s seen here with his wife Toby during a summer concert at the Perlman Music Program. (Credit: Burt Farbman)

Virtuoso violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman is one of 17 luminaries who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, November 24.Mr. Perlman and his wife Toby operate the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island, teaching the most talented and promising young musicians who are selected from throughout the world.

Ms. Perlman founded the program in East Hampton in 1994 and then moved it to Shelter Island in 2000 when the couple purchased 28-acres of waterfront property on land that previously housed the historic Peconic Lodge.

In addition to his musicianship, Mr. Perlman is being  recognized by the president as a voice on behalf of persons with disabilities. Born in Tel Aviv, he contracted polio as a young boy.

“We are thrilled and excited by this great honor and awed to be in such great company,” Mr. Perlman’s wife Toby said. Her husband was on the way back to the United States from an Asian trip when word came of the award.

Mr. Perlman holds four Emmy Awards, 16 Grammy Awards and received the 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was awarded a national Medal of Arts in 2000 and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2003.

He was first introduced to American audiences on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 when he was 3. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963 and has performed internationally and recorded classical music as well as a jazz album with pianist Oscar Peterson.

Mr. Perlman was a soloist for a number of film scores, including “Schlinder’s List” that won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Other recipients to be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom are singer, actor, director and producer Barbra Streisand; director Steven Spielberg: theater composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim; Senator Barbara Mikulski; the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American to be elected to Congress and the African-American female to make a bid from a major party for the presidency ; former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Ruckelshaus; the late Yogi Berra, professional baseball player, manager and coach; professional baseball player Willie Mays; recording and touring artist James Taylor; music producer, entrepreneur, author and songwriter Emilio Estefan; singer, songwriter, actor and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan; Bonnie Carroll, who has devoted her life to caring for military members and veterans; the late Billy Frank Jr., a long-time advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship; former Congressman Lee Hamilton, an expert in international relations; Katherine G. Johnson, a pioneer in the American space industry, who worked as a mathematician for NASA; and the late Minoru Yasui, a civil rights and human rights leader.

In naming the recipients, President Obama said he was looking forward to honoring the 17 “from public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations; from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans.

“These men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” the president said.

j.lane@sireporter.com