First lady Michelle Obama today hailed blues music as “deeply American” and “deeply human” at a workshop for several dozen middle and high school students in the State Dining Room – an event held as part of the ongoing White House music series and in recognition of African-American history month.
“This music wraps all of our emotions — whether it’s love and loss, joy and sorrow, heartbreak and celebration — it wraps it all into an art form that stirs our souls and it helps us rise above all our struggles,” Obama said.
She was joined on stage by singer-songwriter guitarist Keb Mo; vocal artist Shemekia Copeland; and trombonist Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews. Mo has won three Grammys, while Copeland and Andrews have both been nominated.
The first lady told the young audience that the career paths of the artists and her husband, President Obama, illustrate what can be achieved through hard work.
“The President didn’t start out at the top either. Neither did I, but let’s talk about him for a little bit since he’s not here,” she said, drawing laughter. “He had to work hard, and get a little focused — and he wasn’t focused all the time. It was later in life that he got a little focus, right? So even if you mess up a little bit, you can get right on track.”
The three musicians later described their approach to playing the blues and how they started their careers in music. After Michelle Obama left for “meetings,” they performed together, including a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” that had the students clapping and on their feet.