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The White House
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at Classical Music Concert

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                                                               October 26, 2009


East Room

2:22 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello.  (Laughter.)  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the White House.  How's it been going?  We've heard you everywhere.  Good music going on.

So I am -- I'm thrilled that you could join us for this music workshop, where you've had a chance to learn from some of the greatest classical musicians alive today.  And now we have a chance to hear from all of you, the classical music superstars of tomorrow.  Is that who's in the room?  Say yes.  (Laughter.)  Yes, that's me!  Say yes.  Own it!  It's me!  (Laughter.)

With us today are Joshua Bell on violin, Alisa Weilerstein on cello, Sharon Isbin on guitar, and Awadagin Pratt on piano.  (Applause.)  They are the best in the world, and we're incredibly lucky to have them today.

I also want to thank two of our youngest performers, Jason Yoder -- Jason, where are you?  Hey, Jason.  Jason blew me away in Pittsburgh, and so much so that when we organized this, I said, get Jason.  And Jason is here.  Yay for Jason.

And also Sujari -- how are you? -- Sujari Britt, who's only eight years old, Sasha's age, but is already performing on a regular basis.  Let's give those two a round of applause.  (Applause.)  We're so proud of you both.

And finally I want to thank all of you young people who have come from all over the country to play together, to learn together, and hopefully to make new friends today.  I love events like this because this is what the White House is all about.  It's the People's House.  We say that all of the time.  It's a place that's steeped in history.  You can look on -- the pictures on the walls, and there are so many stories that can be told.  But also it's a place where we like to start new traditions and to bring people together in different ways.

And that's what we're doing today, because nothing mixes old and new quite like classical music.  Many of the beautiful concertos and sonatas you're playing today were written hundreds of years ago, long before CDs and computers and MP3 players were ever invented.  The only reason we know what they sound like is because the great composers of history scratched those notes into parchment with quill pens.

But today you can play these same notes on an electric violin.  You can write your own variations of these songs online and e-mail them around the world.  And you can mix and blend your instruments in ways that Beethoven and Mozart never could have imagined.

That's what makes classical music timeless, because even though it's been around for centuries, musicians like all of you are always reinterpreting and replaying it in ways that we've never heard before -- and that makes it so exciting.

Now, I know that what you're doing doesn't always feel easy at times.  Is that true?  Yes, yes, I can get -- I hear that.  And I know how hard you all work, and practicing even when you don't feel like it sometimes, right, and lugging heavy instruments around when you don't feel like it, pushing yourselves to learn new pieces, or getting that last measure just right.  Many of you are perfectionists, and it takes a lot of energy and time, and it's not always easy.

But I can tell you this.  It's through that kind of struggle, whether it's through an instrument or writing or research, it's through that struggle that you find what you truly have to offer to your instrument or to anything in life.  And you won't just learn about rhythm and melody and pitch when you're working with your instruments; you're going to learn about discipline and determination and taking risks.

And I know your instructors and parents have probably told you this time and time again, but they were right -- they're right, I'm sorry -- you'll learn that if you believe in yourself and put in your best effort, that there's nothing that you can't achieve.  And those aren't just lessons about music.  These are really lessons about life.

So I'm here today to tell you to keep up the good work and never lose that passion that you feel about the instruments that you play and that the music that you make.

That's the passion that drives Joshua Bell, who was just four years old, I understand, when his parents caught him stringing rubber bands between the knobs of dressers, stretching and plucking them to play different notes.

It's the same passion that drives Alisa, who I understand her grandmother made her a string quartet out of cereal boxes when she was a little girl.  And she kept sawing away at the cardboard cello, playing along with her musician parents until they finally gave in and signed her up for lessons.

Awadagin started playing piano after his mother bought a dusty upright piano for just a hundred dollars.  That passion drove him to stick with the piano, even when he felt like skipping lessons to play tennis instead.

And Sharon's father promised her that if she practiced guitar for an hour, she could go outside and launch her model rockets.  And after a while, the rockets stayed on the ground, but then her musical career took off.

It wasn't that long ago that these great musicians that you celebrate today were sitting in your seats, standing in your shoes.  And that's why they're here -- to show you that if you follow that passion and never give up, you too can claim your place in the world of classical music.

So thank you all for celebrating with us.  Thank you for learning with us today.  And I'm excited now to see what you all have been working on.

So let's get this show going.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


2:29 P.M. EST