Wynton’s Blog

The House of people

Wynton Marsalis at a White House jazz clinic on Monday hosted by Michelle Obama. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Yesterday was a full, beautiful day. We participated in education events at the White House luminously hosted by Michelle Obama. Three rooms of the house were filled with ecstatic students and first-class educators. In one quarter, Professor Massey of the famed Foxboro High School in Massachusetts conducted Davey Yarborough's Duke Ellington School of the Arts in a clinic on Duke's great music with the assistance from the exuberant virtuoso Sean Jones.

In another quarter, masterful educator Eli Yamen with expert reedman Todd Williams taught an eager middle school group how to feel and play the blues. And in another room, my entire family and the legendary Paquito D'Rivera spoke to and played with some of the best students in the country from the Monk Institute, the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Laguardia High School from New York, and the Levine School.

We discussed the three fundamentals of jazz (swing, blues and improvisation) and how they allow for freedom and expression and encourage satisfaction. We said swing is the responsibility part of freedom, improvisation is the rights part, and the blues encourages the spirit of play in the face of difficulties. Kids and dedicated directors were all happy to be in the first house of the nation playing and teaching our lifelong passion.

The First Lady then gave some spirited comments about her family's involvement in jazz and more importantly had her family attend the culminating concert delivered by Paquito and three precocious students, Tony Madruga, Elijah Easton, Zach Brown and Kush Abadey.

The White House was swinging and filled with the warmth and important unimportance that always attends kids, teachers and the celebration of what goes on everyday. The Obama's are definitely making it the "house of people."


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