Jacobs School professor, soprano Martina Arroyo named 2013 Kennedy Honors

Friday, September 27, 2013

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Emerita of Voice and renowned soprano Martina Arroyo is one of five people recently selected to receive 2013 Kennedy Center Honors.

Also slated to receive honors are jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, singer/songwriter Billy Joel, actress Shirley MacLaine and musician Carlos Santana. The annual award is presented for lifetime contributions to American culture in dance, music, theater, opera, film or television.

Born in New York City in 1937, Arroyo was raised in Harlem by her Puerto Rican father and her African American mother. She attended Hunter College High School, where she studied voice as a hobby. Arroyo trained to be a teacher after being encouraged by her mother to have a "real job" just in case, graduating from Hunter College at the age of 19.

In 1958, she auditioned and won the Metropolitan Opera's "Auditions on the Air," which gave her a chance to study both music and acting at the Met's Kathryn Long School.

Arroyo made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1958 in the American premiere of Pizzetti's "Murder in the Cathedral" and started singing mostly small roles at the Metropolitan Opera. She rose to stardom in 1965 after replacing the ailing Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson in a production of "Aida."

Arroyo was appointed to the Jacobs School of Music faculty in 1993, where she achieved the rank of Distinguished Professor before retiring in May 2007. While teaching at IU, she created a course in role preparation that became the basis of a program she offered to young opera singers in New York City in 2002. The success of that program led to the establishment of The Martina Arroyo Foundation, which works to prepare young singers in the interpretation of complete operatic roles for public performances.

Appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1976 to the NEA's National Council on the Arts, Arroyo later joined the board at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Collegiate Chorale. She is a trustee emerita of the Hunter College Foundation, her alma mater. She was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be presented to Arroyo and her fellow award winners on December 7, the night before the annual gala. The gala is recorded for broadcast as a two-hour primetime special on CBS at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, December 29.