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Local Students Get Up Close to Country Music's Biggest Stars

Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and Darius Rucker joined First Lady Michelle Obama for a workshop in the State Dining Room

Some of the biggest names in country music gathered in the East Room at the White House on Monday night for a concert that honored the history and traditions of a uniquely American musical genre. Musicians including Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker paid tribute to many of country music’s most legendary figures through live performances that were enjoyed by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and numerous administration officials. The event is part of a series called “In Performance at the White House” which has been produced by PBS throughout every administration since its launch in 1978.

Earlier in the day, Lovett, Rucker and Kristofferson joined the First Lady and local schoolchildren in the State Dining Room for a workshop called “The History of Country Music: From Barn Dances to Pop Charts.” Mrs. Obama welcomed the students to “the People’s House” and reminded them of her vow to make sure everyone, not just“senators and diplomats and CEOs who have a chance to come here but … all Americans, especially young people” feels welcome. 

The First Lady encouraged the young audience to explore the surroundings, ask questions and take inspiration from the talented and accomplished musicians who were there to tell their stories:

And that is really my biggest hope for all of you, is that as you sit here and you listen to these fine gentlemen, that you figure out how you can turn something that you love into one of those real jobs, right?  I mean, think about the things that really drive you and give you passion.  And it might not be music.  It might be business, it might be technology, it might be teaching or medicine, or anything else.  For me it was working with young people that gave me passion.  But no matter what sparks your imagination, I want you to take that energy and then follow it.  Follow it with every little piece of energy that you have, because whatever you do, it does take work.  And that’s the one thing you have to get in your mind, that even when you love something, if you’re going to be good at it and get good enough at it, you have to invest in it. 

And I also want you all to imagine yourselves coming back to the White House maybe years from now, sitting up on this stage and hearing from some future First Lady or future President.  And I want you to be thinking about telling your story to the next generation of young people.  And you have to be able to see yourselves in these places to begin to imagine and to dream and to work towards those dreams. 

"Country Music: In Performance at the White House" will air on local PBS stations on Wednesday, November 23 at 8 p.m. ET