Award for Excellence Program

High School Juniors Honored Yearly For Artistic Merit

Inspired by one of our members, Helen Henderson, AEA has recognized juniors in the Washington metropolitan area public, charter, and private high schools with an Award for Excellence (AEA) or a Certificate of Merit since 2004. These honors document students’ artistic talent and is a point of distinction on college applications.  The students are recognized in the disciplines of art, dance, drama, literature, music, and musical theatre.

There is a tradition during the awards ceremony of bringing back those who’ve been honored the previous year to either perform on the stage or display their artwork during the program.  All Award winners and Merit recipients are invited to audition or submit art for this wonderful opportunity. The AEA festivities are yet another way in which our chapter fulfills its mission of supporting young talent.

Among past honorees and alumni performers are a number of international students who have attended Washington-area schools.  The Award for Excellence Program recognizes more than 100 juniors from some 30 high schools (public, private and religious) in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Process

pic_awardsWe ask each participating high school to nominate junior-level students who excel in any of six artistic disciplines showcased by NSAL: art, literature, dance, drama, music (vocal/instrumental) and musical theater.  This should be a collaborative process between the school’s various creative departments.

Each participating school may select:

— One Award for Excellence winner —
— Up to three Certificate of Merit winners —

These students are honored for their skill, dedication, and talent with an Award trophy or Certificate presented to them onstage each spring during a gala ceremony, usually held at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.

Selection Guidelines

  • Teachers, administrators, and/or counselors at each participating high school who are best qualified to evaluate and recommend a student for recognition are asked to collaborate with one another to select one Award for Excellence recipient and up to three Certificate of Merit winners.
  • Students selected should represent the most promising junior-level talent in any of the following six disciplines: art, literature, dance, drama, music, and musical theater.
  • We suggest that selection be guided by goals specified in the National Standards for Arts Education available at
  • The decision to recognize high school juniors was made so that recipients could include the NSAL Award for Excellence and Certificate of Merit distinction on their college applications.

For more information please contact Award for Excellence Chair Seth Arenstein at:

The 2017 AEA ceremony will be held May 4, 7-9 pm, at the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.

[Note: Our regular venue, The Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, is closed for renovation.]

The deadline for 2016 AEA honorees to request an audition/art submission was Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

Important additional information for students of Music (Instrumental/Vocal), Dance, Drama and Musical Theaterplease click here. 

Important additional information for students of Art and Literature, please click here.  

Copyright © 2016 by NSAL Washington Chapter.