First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday welcomed a group of young musicians to the White House yesterday for a conversation with some of the country's greatest blues musicians. The workshop, called “At the Crossroads: A History of the Blues in America,” gave the 120 middle and high school students from across the country a chance to learn about the genre’s evolution from African American spirituals and work songs to its influence on the chart-topping hits of today.
Mrs. Obama has held a series of student workshops that explore the history of American music, and this one was designed to celebrate the contributions of African American musicians as part of the White House's recognition of Black History Month. The First Lady urged her young guests to take full advantage of the opportunity to mingle with great artists including Keb Mo, Trombone Shorty and Shemekia Copeland, and to work hard and stay focused:
...I want you all to believe that anything is possible for you all. That's one of the reasons we do this music series. That's why it is so important for me to open up these doors, to have you guys come from all over the country to sit in the same chairs that kings and queens and ambassadors and senators have sat in, right? They sit right in those chairs. And I want you all to hear from people who have struggled, who have worked, who built up careers and art forms for themselves.
Because the point is: You can be here, too. This house belongs to you. These opportunities belong to you. You never rule yourself, right? You never sell yourself short. You stay focused on your craft. And all of you have been given a talent, a blessing. God, I would love it if I could sing or play something -- but I can't. It's okay.
But you can. So I want you to use this opportunity, as you sit here, to ask these wonderful men and women some good questions; find out what they've done to stay on track; learn about the art form. Don't waste this time. Don't be shy -- although I don't think there are too many shy people here. But ask some good questions. And remember that you're grooming to be the next greatest something, right? But it starts with believing that you can be there. And half of it is walking in these doors at the White House and sitting down here, and just being here, right? Just get comfortable here, right? Get comfortable with a little greatness. See how it feels. Put it on. Wear it a little bit, right? Feels pretty good.
But it requires a lot of hard work. That is the constant theme I think you will hear. Here you will hear from the President, you will hear from me -- anybody who has experienced any level of success, there's a lot of hard work that comes with it. So don't be afraid of hard work. Don't be afraid to fail a little bit. Don't be afraid to trip, stumble, make a fool out of yourself sometimes.
The event was held in advance of an all star blues concert held in the East Room that featured B.B. King, Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck that will air Monday as part of the "In Performance at the White House" series on PBS.