Last night the first family--the president, first lady, Malia, Sasha, and First Granny Marian Robinson--hosted an evening of classical music in the East Room of the White House. Judging from the pictures, actor Ed Norton, senior adviser David Axelrod and Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki were also there. Scroll down for photos.
The first lady wore a form-fitting white dress from Talbots, which costs $226, and gold bangles. Her hair remained in an updo.
First Lady Michelle Obama kept a busy schedule on Wednesday afternoon, emceeing the Coming Up Taller Awards, which recognize outstanding out-of-school and after-school programs in the arts and humanities, and hosting an afternoon classical music concert. More info on both events below.
Naturally, she looked good doing it. She wore a grey tweed suit (designer info to come) and her hair in an updo. Washington's best-dressed woman, Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, was also in the (White) House. Take a closer look below.
On the classical music concert, as reported by Nancy Benac, Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - With two concerts and a series of workshops for young musicians, the White House put a big spotlight on classical music Wednesday and sent a strong message that it's not just for stuffed shirts.
"Nothing mixes old and new like classical music," first lady Michelle Obama told students who spent the morning in music workshops and then attended an afternoon concert in which child prodigies shared the stage with some of classical music's biggest superstars.
"You can mix and blend your instruments in ways that Beethoven and Mozart never could have imagined," the first lady told the youngsters, pronouncing them "the classical music superstars of tomorrow."
Acclaimed pianist Awadagin Pratt plunked himself down on a piano bench next to 14-year-old Lucy Hattemer of Cincinnati to perform a Schubert duet on the East Room's Steinway. Renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein, 27, was upstaged by her 8-year-old partner, Sujari Britt, a student at New York's Manhattan School of Music, when they performed a duet by Italian composer Luigi Boccherini.
The concert also featured performances by Grammy-winners Sharon Isbin on guitar and Joshua Bell on violin.
Bell, performing in shirt sleeves and jeans, introduced a Paganini duet with Isbin by telling the audience that the Italian violinist was "sort of like the Beatles of his time."
Bell also showed that not even the pros are immune to the occasional flub. During his duet with Isbin, Bell inadvertently skipped a couple of lines, and jokingly pronounced it "the abridged version."
President Barack Obama was to speak at an evening concert featuring some of the same musicians.
Mrs. Obama gave the youngsters a big shout-out for practicing even when they don't feel like it, lugging around heavy instruments and laboring to perfect tough pieces.
"It's through that struggle that you find what you truly have to offer to your instrument or to anything in life," she said. "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."
After the first concert, 16-year-old percussionist Jason Yoder pronounced it "a very good day for classical music." A student at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts School, he performed a duet of Saint-Saens' "The Swan" with Isbin.
"In my generation, classical music is kind of looked down upon," Yoder said, adding that the White House spotlight could help change that.
The day's events were part of a White House Music Series that also has featured jazz, Latin and country music.
Earlier Wednesday, Mrs. Obama showcased after-school programs in the arts and humanities by hosting an awards ceremony for more than a dozen recipients of the Coming Up Taller awards. The awards recognize programs outside of the schools that encourage young people to express themselves through the art
From the pool report:
FLOTUS Pool report #1
Michelle Obama speaks at Coming Up Taller Awards, then hosts Classical Music Student Workshop Concert
The White House had the feel of a music conservatory this afternoon, as 120 high school and middle school students from around the country - classical musicians all - attended master classes with some of the top names in the business.
Your pooler got to dip into each class: First, Grammy-award winning violinist (and heart-throb) Joshua Bell, in jeans and shirt-tails, met with some 30 teenage violinists in the Map Room.
"Hey, everybody. Whaddaya think, being at the White House?"
"Woo-hoo!" the students replied.
Bell lamented that he now seems to be most famous for a Washington Post experiment he took part in almost three years ago, in which he played the violin on the street - to see if anyone would notice that he was a world-class violinist. (A few people did.)
"I guess any publicity is good publicity," he said. "I made $38 in about 40 minutes. The good news is that I didn't have to give my manager 20 percent."
Next, to the Diplomatic Room, for 27-year-old cellist Alisa Weilerstein - called by New York magazine, "arguably, Yo-Yo Ma's heiress apparent -- and a roomful of cellists. The group played the prelude to one of the Bachianas Brasilieras, by Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Then it was off to the Blue Room, for virtuoso classical guitarist Sharon Isbin and a roomful of guitarists. One young player performed a piece, and she then coached him on body position and other techniques. "Do you know the formula for a more sweet, dolce sound?" she asked. It's all about where you strum: "Divide the string in half."
Finally, we went to the East Room, where the lively and accomplished pianist Awadagin Pratt was performing the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor by Bach (arranged by Awadagin Pratt) for a roomful of piano students.
A moment of disclosure: Your pooler ran into an old friend, Martin Goldsmith, a classical music announcer for Sirius/XM Radio, who was there for the network's recording of the event. He tipped me off to what the performers were playing.
Then it was off to the State Dining Room, where FLOTUS em-ceed the awarding of the annual Coming Up Taller Awards, which recognize outstanding after-school and out-of-school programs in the arts and humanities. The awards, an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, were started in 1998. Many of the programs reach at-risk youth, who then often end up doing better in school and going to college.
Michelle Obama looked fabulous in a light gray flecked skirt suit, with a darker gray blouse, large brooch, and silver belt. Hair was in an up-do.
Fifteen groups from the US and four from abroad (Mexico, China, and Egypt) won awards. The ambassadors of those three countries attended. Each program receives a $10,000 prize.
FLOTUS spoke of "the power of the arts to change young people's lives" and as each award was handed out, she posed with representatives from the groups - dispensing many hugs, especially to the kids. (Transcript to come.)
After it was over, FLOTUS declared. "Well, let's do that again!"
Then, it was back to the East Room for the Classical Music Student Workshop Concert. FLOTUS spoke, and referred to the assembled students as the "classical music stars of tomorrow."
"This is what the White House is all about - it's the people's house," she said. "We like to start new traditions." (Check transcript.)
FLOTUS also noted the hard work and dedication it takes to master a musical instrument. To the students, she said: "Many of you are perfectionists, and it takes a lot of energy and time and it's not always easy."
Each of the world-class musicians performed, as did a few of the students. Perhaps most eye-popping was 8-year-old prodigy Sujari Britt of New York, who performed on the cello alongside Alisa Weilerstein. FLOTUS commented that Sujari is the same age as Sasha - and from a distance, she looked like Sasha Obama.
Later, I asked Sujari how much she practices each day, and she said 3 or 4 hours. Her mother said, "actually, more than that." Because she is home-schooled, she can easily pick up her cello throughout the day and play. Sujari also mentioned the string trio she plays in with sister and brother, which, she says, practices every other day. Sujari studies at the Manhattan School of Music.
WH social secretary Desiree Rogers sat next to FLOTUS during the concert. Also sighted in the East Room (and in the master classes) was actor-turned-administration-official Kal Penn, who helped pull today's music program together.
The program, which culminates in a concert this evening, was the fourth in a series started by Michelle Obama called The White House Music Series. Previous musical forms featured were jazz, country, and Latino.
The students' travel to Washington was funded by outside organizations (not the White House), such as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation.
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