Obama White House to become Marsalis music academy for a day


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

The first family of the United States is scheduled to welcome the first family of jazz to the White House on Monday, along with 150 youngsters who’ll come to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. not for a tour, but for a blue-ribbon music lesson.

First Lady Michelle Obama will be the hostess for the White House Jazz Studio, the first in a series of three planned music education sessions this year at the White House, with the next two featuring as-yet unnamed country and classical musicians as guest instructors.


For the kickoff event, five members of the Marsalis family are on the bill as instructors for instrumental music students hailing mainly from music academies in Washington, but also from the Marsalises’ hometown of New Orleans and other regions.

Brothers Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis will be among the faculty (sharing their expertise on trumpet, saxophone, trombone and drums, respectively), and Semonti Mustaphi, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, said that piano-playing paterfamilias Ellis Marsalis is expected to be on hand as well.

The rest of the teaching crew includes trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonist/clarinetist Todd Williams and singer-pianist Eli Yamin, all from Wynton Marsalis’ musical circle as artistic director of Lincoln Center Jazz, and Stephen C. Massey, chairman of the music department for the Foxborough, Mass., public schools.

Since the White House was designed for state functions rather than as a conservatory, there will be improvisation in more ways than one. The East Room and the State Dining Room on the first floor will become classrooms for an hour, as will the Diplomatic Room downstairs.The curriculum: three different early-afternoon workshops, on ‘Syntax of Jazz,’ ‘The Blues Experience and Jazz’ and ‘Duke Ellington and Swing.’ After that, the students, who’ll be bringing their instruments, get to kick back and enjoy a concert in the East Room by a quintet led by clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera.

Will future sessions include Willie Nelson demonstrating how to play a really beat-up guitar? Gustavo Dudamel bringing El Sistema to Chez Obama?

We’ll see.

-- Mike Boehm

Related Stories:

First family of arts lovers

The Obamas give their regards to Broadway

Michelle Obama, arts ambassador, to take Manhattan in a Met doubleheader

Michelle Obama to visit Metropolitan Museum of Art (yawn)

Obama and the arts, Part 2

Obama and the arts, Part 3

Photo (top): Michelle Obama. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press. Photo: Wynton Marsalis. Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images