Stevie Wonder, Misty Copeland Received George Peabody Medals for Outstanding Contributions to Music & Dance in America

UPDATE (May 24): Stevie Wonder had a surprise in store after he delivered the commencement address at the Peabody Conservatory’s graduation ceremony at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland on Wednesday May 22: He treated those assembled to an impromptu performance of “Sir Duke,” his spirited tribute to such music legends as Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and “the king of all, Sir Duke” – the great Duke Ellington. The song topped the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1977 and received a Grammy nomination for record of the year.

Wonder also received the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Dance in America at the graduation ceremony. Wonder was presented with the medal by Fred Bronstein, dean of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

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PREVIOUSLY (May 2): Stevie Wonder and Misty Copeland will receive the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Dance in America, the highest honor bestowed by the Peabody Institute. In addition, Wonder and Copeland will deliver addresses for the Peabody Conservatory’s 2024 graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, May 22.

Copeland, the first dancer to receive the George Peabody Medal, will address undergraduates at the morning ceremony; Wonder will speak at the afternoon ceremony for graduate students. The following day, Johns Hopkins University will present an honorary doctorate to Wonder at its universitywide commencement ceremony.

Other recent Peabody winners include Herbie Hancock, Renée Fleming, Tori Amos, Leon Fleisher, Yo-Yo Ma and Jessye Norman.

Wonder is a 25-time Grammy winner. He won album of the year with three consecutive studio albums in the 1970s, a feat that has yet to be duplicated. In 1999, he received the Kennedy Center Honors.

“Stevie Wonder and Misty Copeland have dedicated their lives to making art and to lifting up others through music and dance, inspiring audiences and setting powerful examples for generations of younger performers,” Peabody dean Fred Bronstein said in a statement.

“By any measure, Stevie Wonder has been one of the most influential artists of his time, a remarkable artistic personality born of Motown but destined to exceed what even that juggernaut has meant to the world of music,” Bronstein added. “At the same time, he has been a leading voice in important social and civic causes, connecting his art with social justice to create a legacy of activism closely intertwined with his truly outsized impact in music.”

“Misty Copeland has broken new ground throughout her career, as the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre,” Bronstein said. “By excelling as a Black woman in ballet, she has led change in the art form, and inspired countless younger dancers, performers, athletes, and audience members — in the process, elevating the power and relevance of dance as a medium for expression.”

This year marks the Peabody Conservatory’s 142nd graduation exercises. The undergraduate ceremony is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 22, with a second ceremony for graduate degrees to follow at 2 p.m. Both ceremonies will take place in Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall on the Peabody Institute’s Baltimore campus, and will be available to view via livestream. In-person attendance is ticketed and reserved for graduates and their families and guests. Additional details are available at the Peabody Institute’s website.