Top 7 Musical Politicians

From the piano to the fiddle, here's a look at musical passion in politics.

ByABC News
November 21, 2011, 5:50 PM

Nov. 22, 2011— -- intro: Before stepping into office, many U.S. senators, governors and presidents made a living as lawyers, businessmen, actors, psychologists and even musicians. Here's a look at leading politicians who once entertained the idea of a professional career in music before seeking public office.

quicklist: 1title: Condoleezza Ricetext: The former secretary of state went to college with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. By the age of 15, she won a student competition and performed Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Although Rice never pursued music professionally, she plays regularly with four other amateur string players in a chamber music group at her home in Washington, D.C. Some of Rice's notable public performances include a performance for Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham palace, a duet with soul singer Aretha Franklin for charity and a performance alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma in concert at Washington's Constitution Hall.

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quicklist: 2title: Bill Clintontext: The former president of the United States began playing the tenor saxophone in high school. Clinton writes in his autobiography "My Life" that he briefly considered pursuing a music career before deciding to dedicate his life to public service and politics. During the 1992 presidential campaign, he performed "Heartbreak Hotel" on "The Arsenio Hall Show." Clinton later donated the saxophone he played at his 1993 inauguration to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

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quicklist: 3title: Lamar Alexandertext: The senior senator from Tennessee, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, is an accomplished classical and country pianist. The former governor of Tennessee showed off his musical skills in 2007 when he played the piano on Patti Page's re-recording of her hit "Tennessee Waltz." Alexander also performed with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Despite his talents, however, the senator has said that he prefers to perform in private.

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quicklist: 4title: Richard Nixontext: Former President Nixon is known for many things: his televised debates with John F. Kennedy, his famous "Checkers" speech, the Watergate scandal and, finally, his musical talent. Nixon took piano and violin lessons from first-grade through college. His aunt and uncle, both accomplished pianists, gave the future president his first lessons when he was 7. The only U.S. president to resign from office, Nixon performed everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to the "Jack Paar Show," even composing his own piano concertos.

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quicklist: 5title: Jon Huntsmantext: Before entering politics, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman dreamed of being a rock star. He dropped out of his senior year of high school shortly before graduating to be a keyboard player in a rock band called Wizard. "My initial passion in life was to be a rock 'n roll musician," he told graduates at the University of South Carolina in May. Huntsman eventually left the band, got his G.E.D. and began his career in politics.

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quicklist: 6title: Robert Byrdtext: The longest-serving senator in U.S. history, Byrd transformed from a member of the Ku Klux Klan to become a fervent supporter of civil rights. The late senator was an avid fiddle player and in the early part of his political career he campaigned as "Fiddlin' Robert Byrd." He recorded a bluegrass album in 1978 called "U.S. Senator Robert Byrd: Mountain Fiddler." His fiddling skills gained fame in Washington, and Byrd performed at the Kennedy Center, the Grand Ole Opry and on the U.S. television show "Pop! Goes the Country." Byrd died in office in 2010 at the age of 11034377

quicklist: 7title: Harry Trumantext: The former president once said that if he had been good enough, he would have pursued his dream of being a concert pianist rather than become a politician. Growing up, Truman would practice the piano for two hours every morning but quit at age 15 after telling his mother that he would never be good enough to play professionally. According to the Truman library, he performed for a group of Methodist women in 1945 and said, "When I played this, Stalin signed the Potsdam Agreement."media: 15001798related: 12440780