Classical-music performers at White House present “down-to-earth” image

Posted on: November 5, 2009

In Thursday’s (11/5) Washington Post, Anne Midgette writes, “President Obama Wednesday thanked artists for sharing their passion. He was speaking, of course, about classical music, before the evening concert in the East Room that concluded the White House’s day of classical music. ‘Of course,’ because passion appears to be classical music’s distinguishing trait these days: It was certainly what all four performers—guitar player Sharon Isbin, pianist Awadagin Pratt, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and violinist Joshua Bell—were straining to bring out. … If the four performers had anything in common, it was their young, fresh, down-to-earth image, from Pratt’s dreadlocks to Bell’s signature untucked shirt and blue jeans at the afternoon concert for the students that followed the so-called master classes. … The event could be said to represent a sea change in the image of classical music at the White House. For administrations past, classical music was the logical, even the only, for of entertainment: socially acceptable, properly high-church. … But tastes have changed. Jazz and rock began creeping into the picture as early as the Carter administration, and classical music in the Obama White House is one constituent among many. … The Obamas are approaching the issue of bringing arts into the White House in an inclusive, democratic manner, both in terms of audiences—aspiring students as well as the traditional elite—and of the performers, who Wednesday represented a cross-section of ages and ethnicities.”

Posted November 5, 2009