WASHINGTON -- Aaron Copland celebrated his 80th birthday with the president of the United States and fellow conductors Leonard Bernstein and Mstislav Rostropovich.
President Carter attended the National Symphony Orchestra's salute to Copland Friday night and joined the symphony in a special tribute to the composer-conductor on his 80th birthday.
During an intermission in the program of six Copland works, fellow composer Leonard Bernstein read a letter from Carter acknowledging his contributions.
'Wherever music is played and loved ... you are justly recognized as America's foremost composer,' it said.
'Rosalynn and I wish you every joy and happiness,' it said. 'We are proud to join in this fanfare for a most uncommon man' -- a reference to the first selection of the evening, Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man.'
Carter and his wife also went backstage after the concert to personally congratulate the composer.
'I'm so proud of you and your performance was great,' he told Copland. 'All your performances were wonderful.'
Copland was showered with accolades during other intermissions in the program of selections alternately conducted by Copland himself, symphony music director Rostropovich and Bernstein.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers announced two scholarships to young music students have been established in his honor, and a proclamation was read from District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry acknowledging Friday as Aaron Copland Day.
Rostropovich presented a large plaque signed by symphony members and a book signed by Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale and many other prominent persons, and then kissed the composer.
Then, the symphony stood and played, 'Happy Birthday,' while the audience sang along.
Since his first appearance with the orchestra in 1956, Copland has been a frequent guest with the National Symphony.
'I can hardly just walk off the stage as if nothing has happened,' he told the audience. 'I've had some very good evenings in the past, but this is really something ... I'm very, very touched and I feel like an enormously lucky fellow.'
Besides 'Fanfare,' the symphony performed one of the composer's best-known works, 'Appalachian Spring,' along with four more selections spanning more than five decades of composition: 'El Salon Mexico;' 'Quiet City;' 'Concerto for Piano and Orchestra;' and 'Lincoln Portrait.'
The concert was taped by the Public Broadcasting Service for broadcast later.