The National Society of Arts and Letters

About Us


The National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) was founded in the summer of 1944 in Washington, DC by Mrs. Jesse W. Nicholson of Chevy Chase and Mrs. A. E. Nielsen of Chicago.  The Washington Chapter, originally named the Chevy Chase Chapter, was founded by Dorothy Nicholson Stabell in October of the same year.


NSAL is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), volunteer organization of men and women who are professionally engaged in the visual, literary and performing arts; who have training or competence in a brand of the creative arts; or who have demonstrated a commitment to assist young artists.  Through local chapters, NSAL has been supporting emerging talent for 68 years with competitive National Career Awards in art, dance, drama, literature, music, and musical theater.


In the Spring of 2006, the Washington Chapter also supported talented young American artists through scholarships at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the Dance Institute of Washington, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


In 2004, the Washington Chapter inaugurated the annual Award for Excellence in the Arts Program.  In 2011, this program recognized over 100 high school juniors from 34 different high schools in the Washington metropolitan area.


NSAL appreciates and welcomes your support.

If you would donate to our programs, you may chose to give to our general award fund

or designate a specific program.

For further information, please contact our Washington DC Chapter President Katherine Carson Kyle at:


To give to NSAL, please send a check with your tax-deductible donation to:


c/o Washington DC Chapter Treasurer Jane Taylor

5508 Point Longstreet Way

Burke VA 22015-2176

A receipt will be forwarded to you for your records.






Katherine Carson Kyle


Vice President of Chapter Activities


——— Elected Officers ———

VP for National Affiliations

and Chaplain

Carla Jones-Batka

VP for Development

Celia Josephs

Corresponding Secretary

Mary Ellen Madden


Lt. Col. Edgar Russell, III

Recording Secretary

Gwinneth Clarkson


Jane Taylor

———————————— Chapter Activities ————————————


Katherine Carson Kyle

Award for Excellence

Lt. Col. Edgar Russell, III

Award for Excellence

Gwinneth Clarkson

Award for Excellence

Lynn Gorton

Broadway Master Class

Eileen Mitchard


Lynn Hessick



Heidi Pryal

International Liaison

Dorothy Nagle


Cici Hughes


Alicia Klaffky

Programs and Hospitality



Katherine Carson Kyle

Viennese Ball

John D. Curd, Jr.

———————————— National Affiliations ————————————


Carla Jones-Batka

National Annual Competition: Music

Winston Voice Scholarship

Carla-Jones Batka

Chapter Annual Competition

2014: Music

Susan Merritt Nelsen



Anne Rullman

Winston Art Scholarship

Stacey Wills

Winston Voice Scholarship

Stacey Wills

Chapter Annual Competition

Individual Discipline Chairs

Art: Stacey Wills

Dance: Janice Nevin

Drama: Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian

Literature: Alicia Klaffky

Music: Susan Merritt Nelsen

Musical Theatre: Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian

———————————— Development ————————————



Celia Josephs

Financial Committee Chair

Celia Josephs

Marketing and Outreach

Sherry Watkins


Jane Taylor



Mrs. Dorothy Nicholson Stabell  1944-1947, 1974-1976

Mrs. William W. Edwards  1947-1948

Mrs. Edwina Morrow*  1948-1949

Mrs. William H. Hessick*  1949-1950

Mrs. James E. Douglass*  1950-1951

Mrs. George B. Agnew, Jr.  1951-1952

Mrs. Richard Hunt, Jr.*  1952-1953

Mrs. Robert L. Walsh*  1953-1955

Mrs. Robert E. Kline, Jr.*  1955-1957

Mrs. George B. Green*  1957-1958

Mrs. John A. Logan*   1958-1960

Mrs. Deena Clark*  1960-1962

Mrs. George T. Bell, Jr.*  1962-1963

Mrs. Paul H. Hatch*  1963-1965

Mrs. Charles K. Holmes*  1965-1967

Mrs. Donald B. Murphy*  1967-1969

Mrs. Carl C. Mose*  1969-1970

Mrs. W. Allan Saylor*  1970-1972

Mrs. Gordon H. Smith*  1972-1973

Mrs. Robert T. Andrews*  1973-1974

Mrs. Theodore C. Bedwell, Jr.*  1976-1978

Mrs. Sylvan M. Marshall*  1978-1980

Mrs. Joseph E. Godridge, Jr.  1980-1982

Mrs. Jed W. Pearson, Jr.*  1982-1984

Mrs. Richard H. Peery*  1984-1986

Mrs. Robert M. Chanock*  1986-1988

Mrs. Calvert P. Benedict  1988-1990

Mrs. Dickson R. Loos  1990-1992

Mrs. Catriona Tudor Erler  1992-94, 1996-1998

Mrs. Paul Brockman  1994-1996

Ms. Stephanie Stoyanoff  1998-2000

Mrs. Claire Lent  2000-2002

Mrs. Lynn Hildebrand Hessick  2002-2004

Mrs. Alicia Phillips Klaffky  2004-2006

Ms. Helen Lee Henderson  2006

Mrs. Janice Nevin  2006-2009

Mrs. Carla Jones-Batka  2009-2011

Mrs. Celia Josephs  2011-2013

* Deceased




The following series of posters were designed for display at our Second Annual Viennese Ball held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC.  The posters highlight some of our winners from five of the six artistic disciplines supported by NSAL.  Shown respectively are Art, Dance, Drama, Literature, and Music.  Designed by member Katherine Kyle, the actual poster size is 24 by 36 inches.

Please click on poster to enlarge.



Robert Aubry Davis

WETA, Radio Broadcaster and Television Performer

Denyce Graves


Wilhelmina Cole Holladay

Founder and President, The National Museum of Women in the Arts


Austin Kiplinger

Chairman Emeritus, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc.


Michael Kahn

Artistic Director, The Shakespeare Theatre

Edward Newman

Pianist and past NSAL Washington piano competition grant winner

Robert Pullen

Producer and Director, Special Programming, The Kennedy Center

Marianna Tcherkassky


Frank Wright






($50,000 and above)

The Mary Rich Peery Fife Memorial in Dance

The Eleanor Searle Whitney McCollum Vocal Award

The Mollie Davis Nicholson Career Award


($30,000 – $49,999)

The Constance Caraway Erskine Memorial

The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Legacy

The Frank and Hilda W. Reinhart Memorial


($10,000 – $29,999)

The Byrde Leona Taggart Deike Memorial

The Charlotte Hamilton Ferris Memorial in Dance

The JoAnne D. Hanson Dance Legacy

The Mildred B. Frame Memorial Award

Helen Lee Henderson

The McNichols Family Foundation

The Bonita Crowe Wagner Music Legacy


($5,000 – $9,999)

The Helen Gruver Kline Legacy in Music

The Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation

The Katherine Nordell Lloyd Music Award

Additional Contributions

The Harriet L. Newbill Art Award




The National Society of Arts and Letters is a not-for-profit organization of men and women who are engaged professionally in the arts, or who actively sponsor the work of young artists.  Founded in 1944, there are 18 chapters and over 1,450 members throughout the United States.  Membership is by invitation.


The purpose of NSAL is to encourage and financially assist talented young artists at the beginning of their careers.  In accord with these aims, annual competitions are held on the local and national levels in the categories of music, musical theater, literature, drama, dance and the visual arts, each on a rotating basis. Substantial monetary awards are offered to the primary winners.


To assist NSAL, distinguished members of a National Advisory Council give advice and support to its work.


Local competitions, professionally juried, are held at the chapter level where awards, grants, showcasing, and publicity are given to the winners.  Each chapter then sends its first prize winner to the NSAL National Career Awards Competition held each spring during the annual meeting.  The National Career Awards, consisting of monetary awards, are given to the winners of the National Competition to encourage and further their professional careers. The judges are selected from professional, nationally and internationally known artists in their respective fields.


The competitions provide opportunities for young talent to be heard and seen by these acclaimed judges, by professional critics, managers, producers, and teachers, as well as patrons of the arts and members of the media. The Society continues to assist and showcase past winners as well.  The organization encourages the highest artistic integrity while aiming to promote a greater public interest in the arts.


The website for the National Organization is:  




The Society is grateful to our Advisors for their support of our programs.


Licia Albanese

Dame Judith Anderson
Dr. Wilfred Conwell Bain
Faith Baldwin
Dr. Frances Bartlett
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Ross Beacon
Saul Bellow
Rosamond Bernier
Livingston L. Biddle
Victor Borge
Dr. Preston Bradley
Louis Bromfield
Ernest Brooks
J. Carter Brown
John Burnett
John Ciardi
Madame Alma Clayburgh
Van Cliburn
Otis Calvin Coles
Nadine Conner
Mr. and Mrs. John Coover
Aaron Copland
Mr. and Mrs. Orlin Corey
Allyn Cox
Merce Cunningham
Jean Dalrymple
Alexandra Danilova
Adolph Deutsch
Placido Domingo
Jose Ferrer
Malcolm Frager
Frederick Franklin
Dr. Rudolph Ganz
Dr. Cliff Garrison
Greer Garson
Albert Earl Gilbert
David Gockley
Dr. S. Thomas Greenburg

Julie Harris

Helen Hayes
Anthony Hecht
Charlton Heston
Jerome Hines
Celeste Holm
Dr. Ernest Holmes
Mark C. Honeywell
Hedda Hopper
Marilyn Home
Mrs. Leiand Atherton Irish
Robert Joffrey
Deborah Kerr
Walter F. Kerr
Mrs. Goodwin J. Knight
Nadilie Krassovska
Robert Kuhn
Marjorie Lawrence
Tom Lea, Jr.
Mrs. John A. Logan
Robert Ludlum
Patricia McBride
Eleanor Searle McCollum
William B. McComber
Thalia Mara
Peter Martins
Merrill C. Meigs

Yehudi Menuhin
Carl Christian Most
Patrice Munsel
Louise Nevelson
Isamu Noguchi
Rudolf Nureyev
Ruth Page
Willis Page
Luciano Pavarotti
Mrs. Samuel A. Peck
Judge Hezzie B. Pike

Andre Previn

Vincent Price
Tony Randall
Robert Rauschenberg
Norman Rockwell
Ginger Rogers
John Russell
Nathaniel Saltonstall
Ann Schein
Daniel Schorr
Ben Shahn
Tom Shales
Ted Shawn
Lawrence Leighton Smith
Sir George Solti
Rise Stevens
The Honorable Roger L. Stevens
Irving Stone
Albert Spalding
Ludd Spivey
Nikita Talin
Maria Tallchief
Mrs. Julius Talmadge
Paul Taylor
Walter Terry
Helen Traubel
Tommy Tune
Gloria Vanderbilt
Edward Villella
Dr. Dudley Crafts Watson
Dr. Carl J. Weinhardt, Jr.
Dr. Herman B. Wells
Eudora Welty
Richard Wilbur
John Williams
Mrs. Herbert Witherspoon



Mrs. Barack Obama

Mrs. George W. Bush

Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Mrs. George H. Bush

Mrs. Ronald Reagan

Mrs. Jimmy Carter

Mrs. Gerald R. Ford





The Gold Medal of Merit is the highest honor bestowed by The National Society of Arts and Letters.  It is awarded, after nomination and vote by the Board of Directors, to those individuals whose lifetime achievements in the arts embody the highest standards, and whose careers will stand as role models for young artists.
Gold Medal recipients further support the Society by attending special NSAL banquets held in their honor where area competition winners have the privilege of performing for them and receiving their encouragement and advice.


Al Hirschfeld
Louise Nevelson



Agnes de Mille
George Balanchine
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Loti Falk Gaffney – 1990

Fernando Bujones – 2006

Ann Barzel – 2000

Daniel Lewis – 1995


Dame Judith Anderson

Jean Dalrymple
Jose Ferrer – 1989
Joseph Papp

Jim Nabors – 2005

John Lithgow – 2009



John Toland

Wendell Berry – 2003



Kitty Carlisle Hart

Marilyn Horne
Mstislav Rostropovich – 1992
Andre Watts
Chancellor Herman Wells

Menahem Pressler (piano) – 2002

Roberta Peters (voice) – 2008


Musical Theater

Stephen Flaherty – 2004

 —————— ● ——————

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The National Web Site for NSAL can be found at: