The White House went a little bit country Tuesday.
“Now, I know folks think I’m a city boy, but I do appreciate listening to country music,” President Barack Obama said to guests gathered in the East Room for a performance by country musicians Alison Krauss and Union Station.
Brad Paisley and country music legend Charley Pride also entertained the audience, which included first lady Michelle Obama, Cabinet secretaries and lawmakers.
The president, whose hometown is Chicago, said the genre has helped to make Americans more hopeful. “It’s captured our restlessness and resilience, and told so much of our story in the process,” he said.
The performance, along with a morning workshop for students, was the second in a music series that Mrs. Obama launched last month to encourage arts and arts education. The first session was devoted to jazz. A classical music workshop is planned for the fall.
Earlier, Paisley, Krauss and Union Station taught 120 middle and high school music students from Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia about music and song writing.
Paisley and Krauss started their careers early. Krauss, who plays the fiddle, signed a record deal at 14; the guitar-playing Paisley was just 13 when he appeared on a country music show.
Krauss said she would listen to music all day but “I didn’t think I would ... end up doing it as a career.”
Paisley’s grandfather, a country music lover, gave his grandson a guitar for Christmas when Paisley was 8. And the rest is country music history. “I’ve really not been good at much else,” Paisley said. “Thankfully I was able to do this for a living because, as I said, I did not have anything to fall back on, that’s for sure.”
Paisley and Krauss sat on stools in the State Dining Room in front of a large portrait of a pensive-looking President Abraham Lincoln. Krauss played one piece on her fiddle, and sang another. Paisley also sang. Both answered questions from the students.
One of the participants, Sal La Rosa, of Nashville, Tenn., who just finished the fourth grade, also performed a song he wrote as part of a music education program sponsored by the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Paisley and Krauss talked about the family support they’ve enjoyed along the way to country music stardom.
“Music is like being up at bat,” Paisley told the students. “It’s really very much like stepping up to the plate. And you can have all the support in the world but it’s up to you guys to really get where you want to go.”