Classical music has its White House day
In today's Washington Post: Classical music has its day at the White House, by Anne Midgette.
Anyone who loves classical music has to be happy to see the White House making an effort to present it. People sitting near the stage at last night's concert said that Barack Obama was really involved in the performances; and he stayed on at the reception afterwards to speak to the artists and guests. This is a good thing. A White House spokeswoman also said this wouldn't be the last classical music event the White House would host: again, a good thing.
The arts writer Judith Dobrzynski, blogging about Michelle Obama's remarks before the afternoon's White House concert, wondered if she were sending the "right message about the value of classical music." Though this comment was really an aside, it made me think a lot about yesterday's classical music event. What exactly is "the right message"? The very phrase reveals the kinds of expectations classical music lovers are holding: give us some respect, fund our institutions, admit our superiority.
(read more after the jump)
I'm not sure the concert itself sent the "right message" about classical music. I would have preferred it to demonstrate more of the precision that President Obama invoked in his opening remarks as one of the virtues classical music has to teach, and a little less flinging about of sound and superficial passion. Yet here's a "right message" it did send: classical music is being played in the White House. And if this is the first of several such events, then it's a respectable start.
One of the highlights of the day for me came before the music program, when the First Lady (radiant and gracious) was handing out "Coming Up Taller" awards to 19 arts and humanities programs for disadvantaged children. Shana Brown, a participant in New York's Shakespeare Remix project, an after-school program that leads students through in-depth analysis and performances of Shakespeare's plays, got up and delivered a beautiful speech about her own growth through the program from fractious teen to college-bound graduate, complete with a luminous reading of one of Emilia's monologues from "Othello." Brown's invocation of her future life after college "as a writer, as a collaborator, and as a citizen" was note-perfect. Here's the "right message" everyone wants.
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