Provided by Manassas City Public Schools
Eight Osbourn High School (OHS) seniors were included in a special celebration of the arts at the White House, Friday, April 29. The event, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, was a musical celebration of the history of jazz in honor of International Jazz Day.
The students were welcomed by Mrs. Obama who shared stories about her love for jazz, after being exposed to it as a child. “My grandfather would wake up every single morning and he would turn on jazz, Obama said. “So jazz has really fueled my life in ways that I can’t describe. It just generates all these memories for me from my childhood.”
Additionally, Mrs. Obama acknowledged that April 29 was also the celebration of College Signing Day in the District of Columbia. “I’m especially thrilled to share this passion with so many D.C. [area]students on D.C.’s College Signing Day, which is why everybody is wearing their college gear,” she said. “For those of you who don’t know what College Day is, this is the day that a lot of students declare where they’re going to college.”
The First Lady encouraged the students to pursue an education beyond high school. “It’s a perfect combination to be celebrating College Signing Day with International Jazz Day;” she said. “Because no matter what you want to do in your life — whether it’s to be a jazz musician or an entrepreneur or a scientist or a teacher — you’re going to need a good education. And everybody on this stage understands that.”
The OHS students were among approximately 100 people who gathered in the State Dining Room of the White House for the intimate event, featuring an opening performance by 14-time GRAMMY Award winner, Herbie Hancock, who is noted for being an integral part of every jazz movement since the 1960s.
Hancock was joined on stage by college students from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, who took the audience on a musical history of the genre from its origins to its current art form. Not only did the ensemble present through words, but they, along with the featured jazz legends, incorporated lively musical performances that captivated the audience.
Terrence Blanchard, a five-time GRAMMY Award winner, who is known as a musician and a composer, wowed the audience with his command of the trumpet. The vocalist among the legends, Tony and GRAMMY Award winning artist, Dee Dee Bridgewater, showcased how the art of “scatting” is infused into the rhythms of jazz, with a rousing rendition of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing”. The performance was especially meaningful as Ellington’s birthday was on the same day of the celebration. The group also heard from, Bobby Watson, one of the top alto saxophonists in the world. Watson has appeared at every major venue and jazz festival worldwide and has recorded more than 100 albums. The students were also given an opportunity to see high school students from Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts play with the professional artists on stage.
OHS student Quentin Rice plans to attend Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) this fall. “I love jazz and it’s what I want to study when I go to college,” he said. “To see so many active and up and coming jazz performers at the White House was really cool. And seeing Herbie Hancock was legendary!”
All of the students were impressed with the live performances. “The White House experience was a once in a lifetime one, really,” said OHS student Nick Roberts. “To see all these jazz legends perform with students that are learning jazz at a higher level than I am and to have them share their knowledge about the art was really spectacular. I am really grateful that I had the experience.”
OHS Jazz Band teacher, Stacey Rubach, believes the experience is one the students will cherish for the rest of their lives. “Although D.C. is in our back yard, it is rare that students get the opportunity to go into the White House. So not only did they get to see First Lady Michelle Obama speak, they saw jazz legends on the stage and how jazz music was applied to real life, which was simply amazing.”
This marks the second time in recent weeks that Osbourn High School students were a part of exclusive events at the White House. Fifteen U.S. History students from the school were invited to meet the cast of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, in March, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
View the entire White House Jazz Workshop performance at whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2016/04/29/workshop-international-jazz-day-workshop.