From a kids chorus line with Sarah Jessica Parker to a blaring brass band led by Alfre Woodard to, yes, the occasional off-key note, the first-ever White House Talent Show did not disappoint.
“Come on girls, bring it home!” Parker shouted as she put her arms around students from the Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Portland, Ore., for the big finish of their performance of “You’re Never Fully Dressed” from Annie.
The highly entertaining event, hosted by the First Lady and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, featured performances by major artists alongside students from schools in the Turnaround Arts program, which helps low-performing schools boost student achievement through arts education.
“Two years ago when I joined Turnaround Arts I was given the honor of adopting, and the personal gift of, falling in love with this school and its children,” Parker said after their act, noting it was a “small but mighty and glorious example” of the students’ achievements.
Theirs was just one of many performances that showcased the students’ budding talents, including kids from Boston’s Orchard Gardens School who performed their original song “I Won’t Give Up” and three young gentlemen who charmed the audience with a rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
“When you see a child, the light going on in their eyes, when they understand they have a voice… their confidence just spreads all across their lives. It’s such a joyous things,” Woodard said, holding back tears, after her performance with the students of Renew Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans, La.
After the big finale, the kids were surprised by President Obama. “I have some talent, but I wasn’t invited to be part of the show,” the president joked as the kids squealed with excitement.
“I just wanted to come by and say that the arts are central to who we are as a people, and they are central to the success of our kids. This is not an afterthought. This is not something you do because it’s kind of nice to do. It is necessary for these young people to succeed that we promote the arts,” he said. “I hope that events like this help send a message to school districts, and parents, and governors, and leaders all across this country: You’ve got to support the arts. It’s a priority… And you guys were all outstanding.”