The sounds of Jazz could be heard through the halls of the White House today as the First Lady hosted the first installment of the White House music series. The Jazz Studio brought in over 140 students from schools across the country to get the opportunity to learn from, and interact with, Jazz greats.
Students explored the core elements of Jazz through educational workshops. These interactive sessions got students up and moving: dancing and breaking out their instruments, as they learned about everything from individual legends like Duke Ellington to the broader history of Jazz and its African-American roots. Kemba, 15, said this Jazz Studio opened her eyes to a style of music she doesn’t know much about: "I love all different types of music, but I never learned much about jazz. So this experience is great because it’s really teaching me."
The First Lady stated that she wanted to hold today’s event because the White House should be the People’s House. She went on to explain why she wanted to bring this particular style of music to the White House: Jazz is globally recognized as America’s music, and considered by many to be one of America’s greatest gifts to the world, she said. Therefore, it is essential to preserve and protect it in schools across America so it can be enjoyed by generations to come. "The understanding and appreciation of jazz is integral to understanding and appreciating American history and culture," she said. "It's an outstanding artistic model of individual expression and democratic expression, as well. And there's probably no better example of democracy than a jazz ensemble: individual freedom, but with responsibility to the group."
For many of the students, music is one of their greatest loves, and their arts education has been central to their development. Luke, 18, explained that he feels music is his calling, "It is so expressive. When it comes to playing, I feel I can express myself at the deepest level."
Anthony, 17, has been playing the saxophone since the 4th grade. He said in addition to being able to express himself, playing music has taught him "no matter what people say, you have the ability to be whoever you want to be."
After the First Lady’s remarks, everyone was treated to a rousing performance by Paquito D’Rivera, Tony Madruga, Zach Brown, Kush Abadey and Elijah Easton, who is a 17-year-old student at the Duke Ellington School of Music.
This was just the first of an on-going series that will include Country and Classical events later in the summer and fall. The purpose of the White House music series is to support the arts and demonstrate the importance of arts education in America, which encourages the ability to think creatively. As one student, Alexander, 17, explained: "Playing music helps me in all academics – math, science especially, and it makes you more interested in the arts." He added, "I can’t live without the violin. Always wanting to be better, practicing – you can’t stop once you start!"