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Kennedy Center honors singer Al Green, ballerina Patricia McBride, singer-songwriter Sting and more

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrated five “honorees” at its 37th annual ceremony last night: singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride, singer-songwriter Sting, and comedienne Lily Tomlin.

The artists are chosen because they have, in Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein’s words, “Elevated the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world.”

The evening gala includes performances and tributes and follows a special ceremony with the president at the White House. The Honors are broadcast Dec. 30 on CBS.

The NewsHour talked to a few of this years honorees. Check out their stories below:

Legendary ballerina Patricia McBride performed the work of George Balanchine for 28 years as a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet. In fact the master choreographer often created dances specifically for her. Today she is sharing her passion by co-directing the vibrant Charlotte Ballet with her husband and fellow former New York City Ballet dancer Pierre Bonnefoux. McBride has said, “When I hung up my toe shoes, I didn’t look back, I looked forward.” In November, the NewsHour spoke with Legendary ballerina

Sting has varied his style over the years incorporating elements of rock, jazz, reggae, classical, new age and more into his music. As a solo musician and as a member of the Police, he has received 16 Grammy Awards as well as many other honors. Senior arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke to the Englishman in New York back in 2010.

The Kennedy Center proclamation for Al Green reads, “His iconic voice stirs our souls in a style that is all his own.” And indeed for a period in the 1970’s, Green stirred a lot of souls, ultimately selling 20 million records and being named one of the “100 greatest artists of all times” by Rolling Stone magazine. His life has been one of highs and lows he told us: “I had to work for everything I got. I had to, you know, knuckle down and work for it. That’s the way they made me do it, so to be getting this after singing for forty years, you know I’m happy and amazed about it.” You can see Jeffrey’s conversation with Al Green on the NewsHour tonight.

Last year, the Kennedy Center honored Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, actress Shirley MacLaine, opera soprano Martina Arroyo, singer/songwriter Billy Joel, and Carlos Santana.

Since his emergence in the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960’s, Carlos Santana has been recognized as one of rock n roll’s greatest guitarists. His Latin-infused sounds and rhythms have produced hit songs and albums in the millions. His appearance at Woodstock helped rocket him to fame but he continues to tour to this day and the Newshour talked him last winter right before the Honors–and a tour of South Africa. He said “charisma and conviction” are the two keys to his art.

Tune in to tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour to see Jeffrey’s conversation with Al Green. You can watch on our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local listings.