Douglas H. Wheeler Receives the Washington Performing Arts’ 2022 Ambassador of the Arts Award

By Afton Wooten

Photo credit: Fritz Photographics

Washington Performing Arts announced that Douglas H. Wheeler, President Emeritus and advisor, is the recipient of the organization’s 2022 Ambassador of the Arts Award.

Wheeler is the 10th recipient of the Ambassador of the Arts Award, which recognizes extraordinary achievement, service, and advocacy in the performing arts. Originally hired as concert booker, Wheeler was mentored by Patrick Hayes, Washington Performing Arts’s inaugural president who instilling in him the values of the organization and its “Everybody in, nobody out” ethos. Wheeler expanded upon these teachings during his time as president from 1982 to 2002.

He expanded the organization’s community outreach, established diverse programming and the mentorship of young artists. In 1971, Wheeler launched the Joseph and Goldie Feder Memorial String Competition, awarding lessons and scholarships to promising young musicians. In 1991, Wheeler and Washington Performing Arts established the Men and Women of the Gospel Choir. The Children of the Gospel Choir followed in 1993 and celebrates their 30th anniversary in 2023. Wheeler also initiated the Washington Performing Arts Embassy Adoption Program, Concerts In Schools partnerships with DC Public Schools, and teaching artist programs. As President Emeritus, he continues service as an advisor and artistic visionary in the D.C. community.

Past honorees of the Washington Performing Arts Ambassador of the Arts Award include operatic bass Soloman Howard (2021); violinist, educator, and humanitarian Midori (2020); flutist and educator Sir James Galway (2019); educator and historian Lonnie G. Bunch III (2018); mezzo-soprano and educator Denyce Graves (2017); business leader and philanthropist Jacqueline Badger Mars (2016); Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015); pianist, conductor, and educator Leon Fleisher (2014); and soprano Jessye Norman (2013).