Just back from a girls' getaway in Europe, the Obama women--Michelle, Sasha, Malia, and First Granny Marian Robinson--gathered in the White House's East Room to enjoy a jazz performance on Monday afternoon. As Mrs. Obama addressed the crowd, she remarked "I brought my own family with me today because I want to keep them alive and aware of all kinds of music other than hip hop." (Full remarks and pool report below.)
The first lady wore a white pencil skirt, pink blouse, and white cardigan held together by a flower brooch. She topped the ensemble off with silver Jimmy Choo heels. See pictures and vote below.
(Photos AP and Getty)
From the pool report:
The White House Music Series opened Monday afternoon with a jazz studio, featuring a series of classes for about 150 young musicians, and then a performance in the East Room by Paquito D'Rivera and an ensemble of up-and-coming young artists.
If you hadn't already known about the jazz event, you would have if you walked into the main part of the building at any point during the afternoon. The entire entry hall level was ringing with instrument tuning as your pooler was escorted into the building. Thanks to Semonti Mustaphi in the FLOTUS press office, your pooler sat in for about 20 minutes in each of three classes.
In the Diplomatic Room, about 30-40 middle school-aged kids from the Capitol Jazz Project, the Sitar Arts Center and the Levine School of Music were sitting down to begin a lesson on the blues and expressing experience and emotion through jazz. Instructors were Eli Yamin, a pianist and the director of the Middle School Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center; Todd Williams, a saxophonist and a member of the music faculty at the Tuxedo Park School; and drummer Tony Martucci and bassist Amy Shook, who the kids knew from other classes in the D.C.
area. "Today is a very special day," Yamin told the kids. "It is the first time there's ever been a jazz education session at the White House." He had them each say their name and what instrument they played, then asked them to call out things that made them sad, or gave them the blues. Highlights included "losing my phone," "not being able to play football," "cleaning y room," "certain kinds of school work,"
and "when somebody steps on my brand-new sneakers." Then he had the kids make noises that would represent sadness -- first they groaned, then they growled, then they sighed. He gave each noise a number, and had them repeat the noise when he called out the number. And then, he and the other instructors started playing a blues called "I'm So Glad," and had the kids "play" their blues noises in rhythm with the song for a few verses. At that point, your pooler went up to the next class.
In the State Dining Room, a slightly older, slightly smaller group of kids was watching a lesson by Stephen Massey, chairman of the music department for the Foxboro, Mass., public school system. He and jazz trumpeter Sean Jones were reviewing a swing ensemble from D.C.'s Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. The theme of the lesson was "Duke Ellington and swing," according to FLOTUS aides. Massey had the kids playing Ellington's "Perdido," paying particular attention to keeping themselves all on the right time together. "The bass sound is the harmonic center of the band, and so you have a lot of pressure on you in that regard," Massey told the band's bassist. "You sound fine, so that's not a problem." He danced around the room conducting the band, calling out the song's time and clapping his hands when he wanted the trumpets or the trombones to join the saxophones playing the main theme.
In the East Room, a band of Marsalises -- trumpeter Wynton, saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo, drummer Jason and their dad, pianist Ellis -- was teaching a lesson for high school-aged musicians, mostly from two places in New Orleans, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Fourteen students had come to Washington for the event. Paquito D'Rivera sat in on clarinet and saxophone, as well as a bassist whose name your pooler didn't have (and who your pooler didn't think was a member of the Marsalis family). The theme of this class was "improvisation and expression through sounds and moods." Leading the session, Wynton Marsalis had the students come up on stage and play a chorus each with the band. Some of the kids had dejected looks on their faces after they finished playing, possibly because they missed notes; Marsalis told them afterwards they had to keep a positive attitude. "You played good," he said. "Sometimes the people who played the best had the worst attitude." Then Marsalis started playing riffs on his trumpet, which he had Branford Marsalis repeat on his sax; Delfeayo Marsalis and D'Rivera did the same thing, with Branford Marsalis copying them note for note each time. The students then came up and tried the same thing, with the sax players following Branford Marsalis and D'Rivera, the trumpet players following Wynton Marsalis and the trombonists following Delfeayo Marsalis.
The class wrapped up, and all the students from the other sessions came into the East Room to hear the performance. Wearing a white suit, FLOTUS walked in from the side of the room while everyone was eagerly looking toward the back of the room, near the Grand Foyer; she joked that she had come in through a different door to keep them all on their toes. You should have a transcript of her remarks soon, but she talked about the importance of jazz in her life and how proud she was to hold the event in the White House. "At Christmas, birthdays, Easter, it didn't matter, there was jazz playing in my household" when she was growing up, FLOTUS told the students.
After brief remarks, she sat in the front row and listened to the band. "Jazz at the White House -- mmm, mmm," D'Rivera said. He played alto sax and a beautiful wooden clarinet, and a combo of young jazz musicians -- pianist Tony Madruga, from south Florida; bassist Zach Brown, from Columbia, Md.; drummer Kush Abadey, from Suitland, Md.; and tenor saxophonist Elijah Easton, from Washington -- played with him. They did two songs, and then D'Rivera started playing little snippets of famous jazz tunes. When he played the chorus to Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," the whole room called out, "Salt peanuts," including FLOTUS. "Ahh, Michelle knows it!" D'Rivera shouted. Wynton Marsalis came back to the stage to join them for Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia," and the event ended.
FLOTUS aides said the next event in the music series will focus on country music, sometime in July or August, and then the last one will cover classical music in the early fall.
The first lady's remarks:
MRS. OBAMA: Hey! Good afternoon everyone. Please be seated. We just want to keep you on your toes. If you're looking that way and I come in that way, then you're completely confused, right? Keep you on your toes. Well, welcome to the White House as we kick off the Music Series: The Jazz Studio. How has it been for you all? It's been good? (Applause.)
Well, I want to just thank a few people. I want to thank Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute and the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival for making today possible and for keeping jazz alive. So let's give everyone a round of applause. (Applause.)
Today's event exemplifies what I think the White House, the People's House, should be about. This is a place to honor America's past, celebrate its present and create its future. And that's why all of you all are here today. It's about you, the future. And what better example of this is -- than jazz, America's indigenous art form.
Globally recognized as America's music, originating in the great city of New Orleans just a century ago through the African American experience, today jazz is performed and listened to by people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, ages and creeds. Indeed, jazz is considered by many to be America's greatest artistic gift to the world.
The understanding and appreciation of jazz is integral to understanding and appreciating American history and culture. 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.
It's essential that we preserve, develop and expand this treasured art form for our future generations by recognizing and elevating the importance of our jazz education programs in every single school across America.
The budding jazz -- young jazz musicians from across the country who are with us today, all you young talents, are the future guardians of the music. We salute you and your teachers. We are counting on you to keep the music vital and evolving for generations to come. And as jazz has been demonstrating every night for more than a hundred years, when we work together there's nothing that we can't do.
So I'm through talking. Now we get to the fun part. We can hear some music. So I hope you guys enjoy your time here together. I hope you get to see some of this White House. I heard a few of you were skipping on your way up to the White House. I hope you keep skipping and having fun here. I brought my own family with me today because I want to keep them alive and aware of all kinds of music other than hip hop. (Laughter.) So it's so important for me to have you here that I brought them here, as well.
And jazz has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My mother's father, who we call "South Side," before there was room-to-room speakers he had a speaker in every house, in every room in his house, and he played it 24 hours a day at -- on the highest volume he could put it on. And that's how I grew up in my household. At Christmas, birthdays, Easter, it didn't matter, there was jazz playing in our household.
So it means so much to me to be able to bring that music here to the White House and to have you all celebrating with us. So have a good time. Thanks so much. (Applause.)