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White House Music Series leads with jazz

  |   June 16, 2009 at 1:23 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- Jazz was first up when U.S. first lady Michelle Obama introduced the first event in the White House Music Series, which will feature other music genres as well.

Monday's event included a series of classes for an estimated 150 young musicians and a performance in the East Room by Cuban musician and composer Paquito D'Rivera, accompanied by an ensemble of emerging jazz artists.

"Today's event exemplifies what I think the White House ... should be about," the first lady said as she introduced the series. "This is a place to honor America's past, celebrate its present and create its future."

Obama said it was fitting to lead off the series with a program called The Jazz Studio because jazz is "America's indigenous art form."

"Globally recognized as America's music, originating in the great city of New Orleans just a century ago through the African American experience, today jazz is performed and listened to by people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, ages and creeds," she said. "Indeed, jazz is considered by many to be America's greatest artistic gift to the world."

One element of Monday's program was a lesson in blues for an estimated 30 to 40 students from the Capitol Jazz Project, the Sitar Arts Center and the Levine School of Music. Other groups took part in workshops on swing, improvisation and other aspects of jazz.

The event was put together with help from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute and the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival.

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