The opening of the event by the Philadelphia Orchestra received a thunderous applause, fitting for this evening's Marian Anderson Award honoree - the thunder voiced actor James Earl Jones.
Jones, who is known for his legendary roles on stage and screen like Star Wars, the Lion King and so many more, posed for cameras at the Kimmel Center before the big event.
"The roles he's accepted and the roles he has played have just really sent an incredible message to the psyche of American culture," Marian Anderson Board Chair Pamela Browner White said.
Inside the black tie gala concert fellow actors Phylicia Rashad and Terrence Howard lined up to pay tribute to Jones and celebrate his contributions to theater, film and television.
His award is named for a great Philadelphian and an early 20th century singer who played a vital role in the acceptance of black musicians in the classical musical world.
"Just as Miss Anderson did in the concert hall, in many ways our honoree tonight has changed the field in which entertainment has been seen and experienced in the world," Howard said.
Those who came to witness the honor for the 81-year-old actor say it's well deserved.
"He's wonderful. He represents so much but not only that he's a wonderful actor and I love his voice," Carol McConville of Haddonfield, New Jersey said.
Jones is joining a long list of distinguished Marian Anderson Award recipients including Mia Farrow, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and Harry Belafonte.