The singer-actress is the new host of "Live From Lincoln Center," PBS said Tuesday.
McDonald will emcee seven broadcasts from December through spring 2013, starting Dec. 13 with "The Richard Tucker Opera Gala" and Dec. 31 with the New York Philharmonic's New Year's Eve gala.
"It's a great honor. I'm thrilled that they came to me and trusted me to do it," said McDonald, 42, whose five Tony Awards include a trophy this year for "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess."
Her memories of the Lincoln Center performing arts complex in Manhattan run deep.
"I remember watching Beverly Sills broadcasting from the Met (the center's Metropolitan Opera House) on my PBS channel at my home in Fresno," McDonald said, adding that she was amazed at the venue's size and "inspired by the music."
As a high school student, she had the chance to visit the center and recalled thinking, "This is where I want to be some day."
That wish was fulfilled when she moved to New York to attend The Juilliard School, which has its campus there.
Stepping in as host of the PBS series "feels like it's my way of thanking Lincoln Center," she said.
"We can't imagine a more perfect match," said Elizabeth Scott, the center's executive in charge of the TV series. McDonald's passion for the performing arts is "infectious," Scott added.
McDonald, who starred in "Private Practice" as Dr. Naomi Bennett, has performed on the long-running PBS showcase several times, including programs with Elvis Costello, Patti Lupone and the New York Philharmonic.
She will be working especially hard New Year's Eve when she hosts and performs in the holiday program, "One Singular Sensation: Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch" (check local listings for time).
"We'll see if I fall down by the end of the evening, or by the middle," she said, lightly. What she'll sing is a secret for now, but McDonald said it's among Hamlisch's most famous pieces.
The composer, who died in August at age 68, created more than 40 film scores and won a Tony and the Pulitzer for Broadway's "A Chorus Line."
"Live From Lincoln Center" is in its 37th broadcast season. In recent years, artists and actors including Yo-Yo Ma and Alec Baldwin have filled the host's job that previously saw long tenures by famed opera singer Sills and TV personality Hugh Downs.