The White House sounded more like the music wing of a high school than a seat of government Monday — and that's just the way First Lady Michelle Obama likes it.
Mrs. Obama launched a White House music festival that brought 150 students together with musical legends like Wynton Marsalis and Paquito D'Rivera for a workshop on jazz, which the first lady called "America's greatest artistic gift to the world."
A jazz ensemble is like a democracy, Mrs. Obama said, and proves that "when we work together, there's nothing we can't do."
The students in the workshop were chosen from some of the nation's top music schools, including the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts in Washington, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in New Orleans. With instruments in tow, they filed into the ornately decorated White House East Room and State Dining Room to learn from the masters of their craft.
"I think it's good for the youth to come in and learn about music," said Linton Smith, a 17-year-old trumpet player from New Orleans.
From hosting music workshops to inviting schoolchildren to help plant a vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Mrs. Obama has said she wants to open the White House up to the American public.
"This is a place to honor America's past, celebrate its present, and create it's future," she said.
Kyle Wedberg, interim president of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, brought several students to Monday's workshop, and said the first lady is sending youth a powerful message.
"Normal, everyday Americans have a place in this White House," Wedberg said.
Since their arrival in January, the Obamas have filled the White House with a wide array of music, from a concert honoring Stevie Wonder to a Black History Month performance for schoolchildren by Sweet Honey in the Rock, an award-winning female a cappella ensemble.
Mrs. Obama said she wants young people, including her own daughters, Malia and Sasha, to be "aware of all kinds of music — other than hip-hop."
The music series will continue later this year with workshops on classical and country music.
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